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.ill". ™ 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2010 



Processed World 





from our readers 


analysis of voting by med-o, melquiades, and maxine 


fiction by susan packie 


tale of toil by peter wentworth 


ibm workers united, block modeling, vdt propaganda and rebuttals 


reproduction of painting by paul pratchenko 

b train 41 

fiction by the kansas clerical conspiracy 

WE'RE #1! 46 

article by lucius cabins 


tale of toil by "doc" 


book reviews by torn athanasiou 

Cover Graphic: "Not User Friendly" by Hal Robins 

All of the articles and stories in Processed World reflect the views and fantasies of 
the author and not necessarily those of other contributors or editors. 

ISSN 0735-9381 

Credits: Helen Highwater, Linda Thomas, Boz, Qarl, Primitivo Morales, Lucius 
Cabins, JC Jr., Maxine Holz, Med-O, Melquiades, Tom A., "Doc," Bea Rose, 
Stephen Marks, Louis Michaelson, Clayton Sheridan, Steve Stallone. Kelly 
Girl, Paxa Lourde, Peter Wentworth, Pauline Slug, Z. Noe, Doug, and others.. 

Processed World, 55 Sutter St. #829, San Francisco, CA 94104 USA 



As we go to press, we're not sure who 
won the election. But does it matter? 
For most of us, our daily lives remain 
the same. 

The results of the election won't 
affect us as closely as our face-to-face 
encounters with police at the Demo- 
cratic Convention last summer. Our 
choices on the street then were as 
limited as our choices in the voting 

The Convention was one of the sum- 
mer's most spectacular events — 
rivaled only by the Olympics (see 
"We ' re # 1 ! " in this issue) . San Francisco 
had been specially sanitized for the 
event. City agencies dumped one set of 
undesirables — street people and 
prostitutes — cashless in the suburbs or 
industrial outskirts of the city. The 
police were out to win their own gold 
medals with the other set — protestors. 
A solid wall of cops with a quick-arrest 
policy busted nearly 500; free speech 
and rights of assembly were a farce with 
people being snagged for "conspiring 
to block a sidewalk" or even for just 
looking like a protestor. Several of our 
own circle were arrested for pushing a 
peaceful Trojan "Peace Ass" (it ate 
money and shat missiles and conven- 
tional arms). 

When the conventioneers had gone 
home and the cops had returned to their 
normal levels of hostility, everyone was 
still at work. Some who had taken to the 
streets with spirit were left with an un- 
settling question: was it worth it? Those 
who are still facing many months of 
agonizingly slow legal procedures may 
end up doing time in jail. But most 
would do it again. For them, Mistress 
Feinstein's enactment of a Democratic 
Party-controlled police state made it 

even more clear that we need to take to 
the streets, and often. Others felt the 
show of the macho vs. the powerless 
wasn't worth the beatings and arrests 
— they'd rather find alternatives in 
their everyday lives for expressing their 

And the election season drags on. 
Some will vote, some won't. Some will 
sleep through it, some will get drunk. 
(For further discussion on voting, see 
"Any Port in a Storm?" in this issue.) 
For those who rely on elections to make 
a difference in their lives, the prospect 
of one more term with the Gipper is 
depressing. Others feel despair as 
movements on the left lose momentum, 
lose touch with reality, or turn upon 

£%, BuEe^icpacy 



Talking Heads 

their own. The political situation, like 
the situation at work, arouses two re- 
lated feelings, despair and outrage. 
Tension builds and wavers between 
sadness and fury. It releases into dif- 
ferent kinds of political response with 
one unifying theme: we refuse to pas- 
sively accept the limits imposed on our 
lives by the political system, by the 
government, by the job market, and by 
commodity culture. Two features in this 
issue focus on making changes. In his 
piece, "Down In The Valley, j*' Doc' 

discusses the resistance he encountered 
while working for Tandem Computers in 
Silicon Valley. Our new regular feature, 
"Hot Under The Collar," explores 
instances of office rebellion and issues 
against which to rebel. And as usual, we 
have an array of provocative graphics, 
poetry, and short fiction to take the 
imagination beyond the mundane. We 
crave your thoughtful letters. Air your 
thoughts in PW's Letters section! Write 
to: PW, 55 Sutter St. #829, SF, CA 

— ^SSxL. 


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Dear Processed World, 

I read the article in INFO WORLD, 
June 4, 1984, about your work and I was 
quite impressed with its sensitivity to 
the political economy of computers and 
information technology, in general. 

I am a Sociologist of Education and 
am very interested in the social aspects 
and outcomes of microcomputers in 
education. At present, several of my 
students and I are putting together an 
article entitled, "The Political Economy 
of Microelectronic Devices in Educa- 
tion. ' ' While micros are being touted as 
a liberating technology for teachers, 
students, and administrators, and 
indeed, may have that potential, it is 
more likely to deskill teachers, distort 
learning for students, and to give too 
much control to administrators. 

Microcomputers as participatory de- 
vices have to be fought for and will not 
easily fit into current organizational 
structures. If our organizational work 
settings are already hierarchical, 
top-down and "boss-oriented," then 
the introduction of micros will only 
strengthen that kind of structure. This 
is already evident in the private sector. 
Recent studies in education suggest a 
similar outcome. 

In a recent article in the Harvard 
Educational Review, Karen Sheingold 
and her co-authors found in their study 
of microcomputer use in three school 
districts that school districts, their 
organization and style had a greater 
impact on the technology than the 
impact of technology on them. I quote, 
"The results suggest that the effects of 
microcomputers on education will 
depend, to a large extent, on the social 
and educational contexts within which 
they are embedded." 

Anyway, this gives an idea why I 
found your work so interesting. What 
you are worrying about in the everyday 
workworld I worry about in the 

educational world. While microcompu- 
ters provide new possibilities in work 
and education, they also are not likely to 
become democratic tools that liberate 
unless we get smart about how easy it is 
to talk micros as liberation (ideology), 
and how difficult it is to practice it. 

G.P. — Tallahassee FL 

Dear Processed World, 

I'm still in the process of reading #11, 
but I want to say that the janitor story 
really rang a bell. When I lived in SF, I 
lived with one of those alcoholic janitors 
who worked at the Embarcadero and 
was one of the few white guys there and 
was going to school in the daytime (It 
was at school that I met him). He had 
started out scrubbing commodes, then 
worked his way up to assistant foreman, 
then eventually foreman. He was also a 
Vietnam vet. He worked from about 
4PM till midnight; then after work he 
would go to a bar, usually this place 
called Pastene's where all the janitors 
hung out, and guzzle about 6 or 7 
straight Jack Daniels, then come home 
around 3AM and drag me out of bed 
and start beating on me. Thus I became 
a Battered Woman and I've been 
semi-psychotic ever since. This really 
fucked up my sleep patterns as you 
might imagine, and made it a nightmare 
when I tried to go back to a 9 to 5 office 
schedule (after having lived a laid-back 
Bohemian student lifestyle for a few 
years). I couldn't get any sleep the night 
before a new job started (I was doing 
the temp thing); then I was a wreck all 
the next day. "The Tyranny of Time" 
[PW#11] really rang a bell too for that 
reason; I've had this utter TERROR of 9 
to 5 schedules ever since. 

The only solution I could find was to 
simply not do those jobs anymore. And 
ever since then I've had this real 
problem with how to "fill my time." I 


haven't found any lucrative ways to fill 
it, but at least I've found some more 
creative ways to fill it than I had for a 
long time. I've had an opportunity to 
work in cable TV, which I am now trying 
to make the most of. It's Community 
Access so there's no money in it, but 
I don't care. I seem to be allergic to 
working for money. I'd rather do the 
kind where there's no money involved, 
even though it means living in 
ridiculous poverty and being half- 
starved much of the time. But of course 
it won't always be like this, I keep 
telling myself (though I don't really 
believe it). 

B.R. - AllstonMA 

To the Editors: 

Cabins is on target about the 
corrosive effects of drugs, illegal and 
legal (ever take on a member of the 
Kalifano Kadet Korps of anti- 
smokers?). He's slightly off the mark 
about the extent of use. It is not that 
illegal drug use is more widespread but 


is an 



the system 
from time 
to time 

comes in 
like an 

then once 


to an 

agent dressed 

in gloom. 

Ronald Edward Kittell 

£>on't vvorvy, Wc'ij fa h / 


r °mva n 

that the drug culture is more wide- 
spread. Opium, morphine, nitrous oxide 
and cocaine were once legal drugs and 
their use was common well into the 20th 
century. The widow's walk was an 
architectural feature of the house in 
New England ports, and with the China 
trade it is easy to see why women were 
anxious for their men to return. Opium 
was used freely, until the supply ran 
out, and of course the supply was 
replenished when the ship came in. "A 
shot in the arm" entered the language, 
as did "quick fix," and both are still 
around, though somewhat dated. 
Modern marketing efforts have brought 
us to "altered consciousness" and 
methadone treatment. 

Cabins, therefore, is dealing with a 
syllogism. Ordinary consciousness is 
unsatisfying because work, friendships, 
city living, and recreation are absent or 
deficient. The promise of altered 
consciousness is seductive enough to 
find plenty of converts, whose best hope 
is a temporary reduction of the sense of 
emptiness, and whose worst fears are 
frequently well-founded. In other, 






Processed World 

simpler words, drug use is a symptom 
of the disease it purports to cure. The 
same can be said of so much of modern 
life — from automobiles to computers to 
psychiatry. We're simply up against it, 
the technology, that is, an old story. 

By technology I don't mean simply 
the electronic, as most of your writers 
and readers do, but the entire state of 
the art from the BART system and 
aspirins to the methane-breathing 
plastic furniture, the disposable 
diapers. "Plastic, plastic, everything's 
going to be made of plastic," sang 
Guthrie. Well, now everything is made 
of plastic except the things I can't 

I can't afford to glorify drug use. Like 
Cabins I've lost friends who preferred 
careers in dope to just about anything 
else. It really is a triumph of modern 
marketing that a career in dope is just 
that, something requiring a lot of hard 
work to get to the top, a hardening of 
the hierarchies. The occasional 
Kennedy heir might score in Harlem, 
but most vice presidents toot with other 
v.p.'s. The work itself, as Cabins notes, 
is dangerous and time-consuming, 
requiring administrative and marketing 
skills worthy of an Iacocca. 

Illegal drug use bridges rather than 
cements, and the bridges are stretched 
over dangerous heights and swift 
rapids. Cabins understands this. 
Isolation, addiction, and prison are 
excellent reasons for caution in a choice 
of career, whether the work be 
programming (the hacker has his own 
media problems — he is outlaw, hero, 
romantic and priest) or dealer. 

Ad astra, 
B.C. — San Francisco 

Dear friends (& anarchists [where-ever 
you may be.]): 

So far I have received 4 issues of PW 
(7-11) and you send them to me of no 
charge (I am a state prisoner). 

This past March I was placed in 
violation for having PW (because) a 
correctional officer here said that PW 

was related to the Aryan Brotherhood. 
(No joke!) After being put into "the 
hole" for a period of ten (fucking) days, 
I wrote four grievances to the super- 
intendent here. The first three were 
(honestly) — lost. Finally the supt. 
wrote me back and said that the 
violation mentioning my "collusion" 
with the Aryan Brotherhood would be 
removed from my file. Just thought I 
would let you know that in my opinion 
management and administration are all 
together one (thing). 

I've just recently begun working in 
the library (which is nicely organized). 
I'll put PW on display there once I'm 
through reading it. 

S.S. — Missouri 

The first grammar course developed 
exclusively for people in business 


Dear PW, 

Enclosed find a delightful piece of 
nonsense courtesy of the airline 
"news" magazine. 

No need to use such vulgar 
expressions as, "You'll have to work 
faster." Now you too can render gems 
such as, "Referencizing fiscal respon- 
siveness has facilitated necessary 
input-orientation scheduling overba- 
lance-wise, thus replicating, moti- 
vationally speaking attitudinally-de- 
rived factors with respect to the under- 
lying prolificness." Doesn't that sound 

Of course, slams on enforced 
illiteracy have been done before (though 
never often enough to my thinking); the 
point to get across is that language, no 
less that computer science, is a tech- 
nology used against us. Orwell's 
concept of a language structured so as 
to eliminate thought processes has 
always been for me a very profound and 
dangerous observation. "So remember, 
Kids, 'We do it all for you!' 

T.H. — Detroit 


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Dear PW, 

I'm at one of my far-flung trade 

shows with some time and access to a 
DECmate III word processor (courtesy 
of the press rooom here at Intech '84 in 
Dallas) on my hands. 

Two contradictory things have hap- 
pened. One is that I have gotten to the 
point where I can't write without a word 
processor: for me, the ability to turn out 
readable copy (my handwriting is 

wretched and my typing is worse), and 
more important, revise and rewrite as 
much as I need to, has enabled me to 
get over my writer's block/performance 
anxiety in a way years of psychotherapy 
never did. The negative side of all this is 
that I spend so much of my waking 
hours at work, writing and thinking 
about computers, and data processing, 
and the impact of the technology on all 


Processed World 

of us poor humans, that it's the last 
thing I want to do with my free time. 

I now work as an editor 41 floors up in 
mid- town Manhattan, for a prestigious 
trade magazine at a Fortune 500 mega- 
publishing company. I go to press 
conferences; get hounded by flacks, 
directors of marketing, and company 
presidents; zoom around to trade shows 
in major U.S. convention centers where 
I live far better off my expense account 
than I ever can when I'm home in New 
Yawk in my small, cold dark cave with a 
view. And what has been the effect of 
all this on me, the original Berkeley 
alienated disaffected nihilist, who can't 
relate to anything, whose first 9-to-5 job 
was at age 28? Well, for one, I like the 
autonomy that the corporation gives 
me, the perks (without which life in 
Manhattan would be impossible, or 
nigh intolerable), the freedom to get 
paid for writing what I think, to slip in 
small bits of splenetic commentary on 
things. For the rest, I've stopped 
writing poetry; in fact I've stopped 
writing altogether, except when I'm on 
business trips as I am now, where I use 
the hotel's stationery to write long 
meditative letters. It's only on the road, 
when I'm away from the tyranny of text, 
and language, and deadlines, and 
churning out X numbers of lines in so 
little time, and Thinking About What It 
All Means, that I feel like writing. 

I started working in this field after 
many abortive Bay Area non-careers 
(waitressing, working at a fancy French 
bakery, working for a peace group, etc.) 

• i ' l 'Vl' i Y'''''''*^*^*'' ' ' V v y *** 

at a hippy trippy Marin software 
company as a clerical assistant to the 
technical writer. I liked the vibes though 
— everyone wore jeans, the president of 
the company did his own typing, you 
made your own hours, and had Mill 
Valley to play in in your off hours. It was 
the fantasy of the enlightened California 
new age company — and I agree, it was 
wonderful to get paid to ask questions, 
make mistakes, be master of your own 
time. But of course, all good things 
must end; the company went broke, and 
I decided I liked being a translator of 
technical concepts into ordinary 
English, and I liked how anti-authori- 
tarian the DP world seemed to me. So I 
got myself into another job, actually 
doing technical writing, at a bigger, 
straighter company, and then found out 
what life in the real world was like. It 
was about the same time I started 
subscribing to PW — and it was 
comforting to have some guidebook in 
hand as I went through the confusion 
and rage of working for a traditional 
corporation (bankrolled by insurance 
companies, retired military officers, and 
a stock quotation company, no less). 
Gad, it was pernicious. And gad, 
technical writing turned out to be a bore 
once I got over the initial thrill of 
gaining a skill, of having regular 
income, and using my brain for the first 
time since I was 16. I then started doing 
the company's marketing literature, 
because that seemed to offer a little 
more creativity and less of a feeling of 
machine-to-machine translation. . . 

Two curious effects. I saw my prose 
getting smoother, but with an oddly 
flattened grey affect. Blanded out. The 
second was that I began to think of 
computer applications all the time, in 
terms of eliminating drudge work. I 
began to notice in conversation to 
friends that I would make comments 
like "You could get a computer to do 
that." I organized a passover seder for 
30 people at a loft south of Market 
Street on the company's minicomputer. 
It was fun. Appropriate use of 
technology and all that. 


Anyway, just when I decided that 
couldn't take it anymore, fate inter- 
vened when a headhunter called out of 
the blue (never ask for what you want 
because you might get it). I was 
recruited by a New York publisher to be 
an editor at a micro consumer 
magazine. Ah, every Liberal Arts 
flake's dream: to go to New York and 
work in publishing. Writing magazine 
articles had to be more fun than 
cranking out press releases and user's 
manuals... Anyway, I went after much 
rigmarole too appalling to go into (IQ 
tests! Personality inventories to check 
for attitudes towards authority! Endless 
paranoid checking of references!). It 
was a disaster. I never encountered 
professional sexism before last fall; I 
went into culture shock over the 
classist, racist nature of the New York 
social structure; I hated the kind of 
formulaic drivel I was supposed to turn 
out. So I was driven away, and I got 
another job, this time where I wasn't 
required to indirectly flog the con- 
sumerist ethic (buy more things and 
you'll be happy!). 

Now, it's been almost a year since I 
moved to New York. I'm learning more 
and more about something I really don't 
care about (computers); they were just a 
way for me to make a decent living as a 
writer, and not sell my soul. I'm being 
typed as a journalist, which I never 
wanted or aspired to be. I don't believe 
most people need computers but I find 
myself unwilling to use the perfectly 
good wonderful old Hermes typewriter I 
have at home. What's more, after hours 
I don't want to think about or work with 
machines. I want the sensory, the 
social. Dealing with language and 
technology every day exacerbates my 
other needs: the longing for community, 
kindred spirits, pleasure, intimacy, 
play, a decent place to live, good light, a 
lover — all things missing in my life in 
the big city. I keep thinking of that 
hokey old Donovan song, you are but a 
young girl, working your way through 
the phonies... 

P.B. - NYC 


It was not by revelation, 

that I know I'm not a technocrat. 
It was fear, 

tugging at my motivating force, 

causing a constant dull ache 

for months. 
With each new hi-tech step for mankind 

I search myself and find 

no desire to learn Basic. 

Why do I resist the way the world turns? 

(Why don't I own a television?) 
Do you hear the Word not seen? 

the veiled voice calling 

in and out of earshot, 

inviting me deeper into forever 

and farther from now. 

I wonder 

Will someone, using an Apple II, 

discover the plan to make 

us nothing but numbers, 
And organize all the technopeasants 

to rise up 
They will sabotage all the Auto-tellers, 

("What if I need money at 2 a.m.?") 
Start campaigns 

to burn cars with voices, 

reverse tapes on answering machines, 

break those circuits that interrupt 

our conversations, 

(You know, when someone more important 

is trying to get through.) 

Beth Jones 


Dear Worldly Workers & Friends, 

Believe me, your magazine is my life 
raft on those crowded, muggy CTA 
trains and busloads of workers rushing 
around to and from work. While their 
Wall Street Journals poke my arms and 
ribs, cramping the space, I am safely 
hidden away in Processed World. 

I read you cover to cover and agree 
with your philosophies and recom- 
mendations to make work endurable via 
sabotage. Right now I am in the process 
of ripping off company time, company 
materials: pen, paper, postage, all in a 
cool, air-conditioned private office. It 
ain't too bad. Just got back from lunch 
and need to relax an hour to let the food 


Processed World 

digest. Right! 

My favorite — Excuse me. I forgot 
where I left off because I interjected a 
little work. I work hard. Like most 
womyn I'm ripped off royally of any 
financial and/or power gains. The book 
Games Mother Never Taught You sup- 
posedly gives strategies for women on 
how to get ahead in the corporate world 
but I wonder if it's worth the struggle. 
The book only made me madder than 
hell so I went into the president's office 
demanding a $5000 raise, he told me I 
was crazy, I gave him "2 weeks notice," 
he said "if I were you I'd think about 
this." And I said "OK. I retract it." So 
here I am. I have a computer in my 
office but I'm self-conscious of the noise 
I make on it or having to wipe out should 
someone walk in. I am discreet about 
time stealing. I see to it I pad my lunch- 
breaks with work oriented pick-ups and 
deliveries during the warm weather 
season. Also when criticized about 
anything I say "I'll try to do better next 
time" and smile. They buy it and I feel 
good inside. Attack thoughts only attack 
the person who holds them. I don't need 
to defend myself. I do a good job but I 
do pace myself and I don't give one 
hundred percent. I see no reason to. 

I especially love your graphics, the 
comics are exceptional. There is no 
weapon like humor. 

Love ya, 
J.B. — Chicago 


I know, the last thing a person who's 
been looking into a computer terminal 
all day wants to do is to come home after 
work and plug in their home computer 
even to access such a revolutionary 
service as NewsBase. 

So why not take an electronic break 
on the job. Use the bosses' equipment 
to access NewsBase while at work. In 
fact NewsBase will set up a special 
section just for workers who call 
NewsBase during working hours. 

Communicate with other terminal 
slaves through NewsBase. Exchange 
information on working conditions, on 
union organizing or just plain gossip. 
Start using computers for yourself. 

If only three of you access NewsBase 
during working hours and leave a 
message for me, the SYSOP, saying 
that you want a special section on 
NewsBase just for terminal slaves I will 
set it up. Only you and fellow workers 
will be able to access it. 

To access NewsBase during working 
hours (or any other time, 24 hours a 
day) just call 415/824-8767. 

Richard Gaikowski 

ED. NOTE: Of course readers should 
take precautions to preserve their 
anonymity in the [likely] event this 
bulletin board is "visited'' by managers 



Dear Processed World, 

Hi everybody. Here I am in the 
letters. I'm going to launch right into 
the bad form bit — that is Bad Form # D 
sec. 37901 and this is it — writing to a 
magazine that I help produce. So now 
I'm a slut with Bad Form. Colette knows 
a stripper named Lottie Dah. I like that. 

When I first got involved with P.W., 
some of you know, I was coming out of a 
period of pretty intense isolation with 
the misanthropic mark on my head. Just 
previous to that, a group that I had been 
involved in and I had a painful parting. 
In that process, I was scapegoated, and 
attacked in various harassing ways, and 
made to feel pretty threatened. I made 
it through and have the added ability to 
empathize with anyone else in that 
position. My experience was not with a 
political group per se. I was involved 
with The Church of Satan, and later, 
after the first Hell Wars, the Temple of 
Set. Adversary — in a big way. I've had 
no experience with a political group 
before, never read Marx or those other 
guys. I like my politics by accident, like 
when I discovered not looking at shower 
curtains in shop windows anymore 
because I can't afford them is some kind 
of Marxist economic policy. 

Now that I am (accidentally) political, I 
find many similarities in political groups 
as in religious revolutionaries. AllRomes 
decline and fall. Factions develop, 
grow, new edicts and codes arise, THE 
WAY is defined, pronounced and all 
dogma clearly formed. Rigor mortis 
sets in shortly thereafter, but before 
that, someone must suffer. Someone 
must be made to pay for the truth, that 
there is no Rome, that our societies are 
false. Even our best ones. Those that we 
create ourselves out of tender idealism 
die as we are pressed to explain, to 
name, to identify. This is the fool's 
preoccupation, because even the 
sleepiest must know that we can't name 





what we don't know. What are we 
doing? Creating? Kidding ourselves? 
Making ourselves victims for the 
destroyers, so active in this arena? It is 
impossible to predict, as the fate of the 
Earth. Yet speculation and examination 
of current trends show... a crazed killer 
lurking in each of our futures and an 
earth with a death rattle for the 
radiation baby. 

Oh the pleasures of false life are ever 
glorious — so much fun to swallow up 
information of other people's lives, keep 
the light away from me, fill the 
telephone with my voice, I have to tell, I 
have to tell. Whose hand is holding that 
telephone? I'd like to know, so I can pull 
the plug on that caller. It is a small 
world after all, and we all know who's 
fucking whom. We even know who's 
fucking the people we don't like. All this 
is much more fun than passing around 
information about useful activities that 
might require effort to be personable or 
responsible or human. Lets trash each 
other instead, make ourselves tender 
meat for the politicians. The gossip in 
the Satanic scene was more fun. You 
know — "He said that a Demon really 
appeared" and so forth. 

Why does personal dislike have to 
become a personalized political attack? 
Even after my own experience, I don't 
have the absolute answer, but I get the 
sense that people get very pissed off 
when you won't give them directions/ 
solutions, and when you won't make 
yourself accountable to them, or 
identify your moves. If the desired label 
is Council Communism, and there is a 
council of one, and I commune with 
myself, is that still Council Com- 
munism, and does that mean that my 
decision is not mine? 

Processed World moves in lots of 
different ways, and that's one of the 
things I like about it. I spit at dogma, 
and it drives me away. People who can't 
let it go are playing a scratched record. 
CHANGE! CREATION! I'll sleep when 




Processed World 

I'm dead. Processed World does not 

pretend that it has formed a new or even 
an old society. There is no intimation of 
knowing what's ahead and so 
presuming to know the way for all. I 
have grown in an atmosphere of 
creativity and support through my 
participation in this project. I hate bulk 
mailing and I don't quite hate printing 
all the time. I like being able to sit in the 
same room with someone I disagree 
with and not feel like I have to agree or 
make them change their mind. Or that I 
have to suffer somehow, or make them 

Somehow out there in the world of left 
handed open minded politics, I am not 
seeing genuine open-mindedness or 
even much understanding. I just keep 
hearing about it. There are claims to 
differentiation between things "per- 
sonal" and "political" and then there 
are separations, attacks, and defa- 
mations. What's the point? Working 
towards a new kind of life, or 
perpetuating this rut? And in the 
meantime, maintaining magnanimous 
civility? How many bloody cheeks will it 
take before we stop being something 
we're not? Life in this world/society 
beats us up enough, doesn't it, without 
turning on one another? Maybe that 

means that if oppression didn't exist 
we'd have to invent it. There's no way 
of knowing. 

I'm not going to make a bleeding 
heart plea that "we should all get along 
with one another." That's never gonna 
happen. A lot of already solid 
somethings have to come together to 
unmake shaky ground. Settle in for a 
long wait and try to avoid the slings and 
arrows out to kill the songbirds of hope. 

Love, L.T. 

(with BAD FORM properly filed) 

#DSec. - 37901 

See Thomas, Bad Form 


Dear People: 

The place where I work is un- 
believably straight. , .today I was 
blowing my nose in the bathroom stall 
and my schnozz was going HONK 
HONK, as it is want to do. I noticed by 
the little white sling-backs under the 
next stall that the old BOSSO was trying 
to take her little dump right there, next 
to little pink-collared me. So, to get her 
embarrassed I said, "It sounds just like a 
moose-call, doesn't it?" Another pink- 
collared slave would have giggled or 
said "I thought that was you" or 
something. My boss said NOTHING. 
When we got out to the old sinks I took 
my time washing my hands, next to the 
old boss. She still said NOTHING. I was 
taking such liberties! (I hope she 
thought I was referring to her old 
dried-up sphincter.) 

It might be a good idea to pass on— 
talk to your bosses in the bathroom. You 
can't get "in trouble": no one is doing 
any WORK. It gets them all upset 
because a) the human side of them is 
exposed, if you will, b) they're at your 
mercy c) if you act real sunny and 
bright, they can't say you're being 
obscene or something, and that gets 
them even more! Try it! 

Comes the revolution, however it 





"... although the Devil be the Father of 
Lyes, he seems, like other great Inven- 
tors, to have lost much of his Reputa- 
tion, by the continual Improvements 
that have been made upon him. 

Jonathan Swift, 1710 


If you didn't then you are an uncaring 
idiot who didn't do your part in trying to 
get rid of the most brutal President yet. 
If you did, well then you're a good dupe 
legitimizing a 2-Party monopoly whose 
left hand holds a .38, the right a .45. 

Like all election years, U.S. citizens 
this year were bombarded with appeals 
to do their bit for democracy and get 
out 'n' vote. The old rallying cry that 
'this time voting will really make a dif- 
ference' had great appeal. Orchestrated 
election hoopla was bigger and more 
expensive than ever before. But if mil- 
lions were mesmerized by images of 
leaders, far fewer people bothered to 
cast their ballot. 


For many, voting Reagan out was 
considered crucial to avoid escalation of 
U.S. intervention in Central America, to 
protect what remains of welfare and 
civil rights programs, and to prevent the 
appointment of more conservative 
judges to the Supreme Court. 

At first glance, Mondale's position 
against covert aid to the contras in 
Nicaragua appeared to make him a 
"peace" alternative to the more ob- 
vious war posturing of the Reagan ad- 
ministration. But then Mondale said he 
would "quarantine" Nicaragua if the 
Sandinistas didn't fall in line behind 
U.S. foreign policy. An effective 
quarantine would mean placing U.S. 
troops and military resources around 
Nicaragua's borders, a strategy that 
would increase the likelihood of direct 

U.S. intervention in the region. 
Moreover, Mondale openly applauded 
aid to El Salvador and endorsed 
Reagan's invasion of Grenada. From 
Woodrow Wilson's explicit campaign 
promise of non- intervention in World 
War I to "peace candidate" Johnson's 
escalation of the Vietnam War, the 
Democrats' track record is dismal (see 
sidebar The Democrats' Long and 
Sleazy History of War and Militarism). 
The prospect for poor and minorities 
under Mondale was equally dismal. The 
Carter- Mondale administration cham- 
pioned underprivileged interests by 
proposing $27.6 billion in domestic cuts, 
including reductions in job training, 
Social Security and other programs. 
Four years later at the Democratic Con- 
vention, the Mondale- Ferraro faction 


Processed World 

rejected all but one of the (already 
tame) minority planks put forth by Jesse 
Jackson's Rainbow Coalition, leading 
one of his supporters to comment: "We 
were treated like song and dance 
men... treated with arrogance by Mon- 
dale." Meanwhile, Mondale took great 
pains to embrace Bert Lance, a living 
symbol of corrupt, Southern monied in- 

The spectre of a Supreme Court 
stacked with anti- abortion, anti-civil 
rights, pro-prayer conservatives pro- 
vided the most convincing reason to 
vote against Reagan. Such a realign- 
ment could threaten the few substantial 
civil liberties than can still be defended 
in U.S. courts. Mondale 's choices for 
these positions of power would almost 
certainly be more moderate than 
Reagan's. But given the prevailing 
political climate, Mondale appointees 
would likely be more conservative than 
the two remaining liberals on the Court, 
Brennan, age 78 and Marshall, age 76. 
Election results aside, the overall injus- 
tice of the U.S. legal system would per- 

The attention given to presidential 
elections was ridiculously dispropor- 
tionate to the real effect of ballot cast- 
ing in our daily lives. Voting gives us 
some influence over who wins but no 
reassurance that the winner will serve 
our interests. 

Politicians make all kinds of promises 
and projections during their campaigns 
that are left unfulfilled by the end of 
their terms. The most important issues 
are rarely voted on. This year, for ex- 
ample, voters cannot decide whether 
the government will authorize nation- 
wide cobalt irradiation of fruit, vege- 
tables and grain; whether U.S. Steel, 
G.M., Atari and other corporations can 
again shutdown major plants and 
ravage nearby communities by sud- 
denly throwing thousands out of work; 
or whether computer chip-making is 
worthwhile as long as chlorine gas and 
other known cancer-causing toxics are 
necessary to produce them. 

In 23 states the citizenry can raise 

pertinent questions through popular in- 
itiatives. This process has placed on the 
ballot issues that concretely affect 
people's lives (rent control, repeal of 
sales tax on food, gun control). In recent 
years, the initiatives have also included 
symbolic measures such as municipal 
declarations of nuclear free zones or op- 
position to federal military aid to 
Central America. 

But what began as a mechanism to 
supercede party politics has largely 
been captured by monied interests. To 
place a measure on the ballot, 
proponents must secure petition signa- 
tures from the electorate, and this ac- 
tivity in itself has become a "big busi- 
ness". Political management firms now 
specialize in acquiring signatures for a 
price. The California Fair Practices 
commission reported that in 1979 spon- 
sors of the Gann "Spirit of 13" proposi- 
tion to roll back property taxes paid 
$537,000 or almost $1 per name to get 
the necessary signatures. And when a 
measure gets on the ballot the big 
money really starts rolling. In a record 
for campaign expenditures that still 
holds today, five tobacco companies and 
the Tobacco Institute spent $6 million 
(to their opponents' $0.5 million) in 
1978 on a California measure limiting 
smoking in public places. Voters' in- 
formation channels were flooded with 
advertising which turned around an ini- 
tially favorable attitude toward the 

Popular local initiatives are also 
threatened by tremendous financial 
support from outside special interests. 
This year, California's Proposition 37 
for a state lottery saw in-state op- 
ponents (mostly race track interests and 
churches) raise $88,000 in total con- 
tributions. In one fell swoop, an out of 
state lottery ticket supplier, Scientific 
Games Inc. made a $1.5 million con- 
tribution in support of the proposition. 
Not surprisingly, as money becomes the 
crucial factor in posing and deciding in- 
itiatives, they become increasingly con- 
servative, such as California's Proposi- 
tion 41 that would immediately cut wel- 

Any Port in a Storm? 


fare benefits by 40%. 

The emergence of a voting industry 
has turned voters into political "capi- 
tal" for those who run the business of 
American democracy. For political 
machines, people are 'votes' to be 
bought, sold, and traded as the can- 
didate's strategy and warchest dictate. 
Leaders of large organizations from the 
Moral Majority to the Nuclear Freeze 
Movement to the AFL-CIO, broker their 
members' votes as stock in exchange for 
campaign pledges and planks in party 
platforms. For pollsters and electoral 
analysts of all kinds, 'voting blocs' are 
vital data for determining the winning 
party 'ticket', how districts should be 
re-apportioned, which incumbents may 
be most vulnerable. The 'black vote,' 
Yuppie vote, farm vote, youth vote, 
Christian vote, labor vote, senior vote, 
peace vote have become so many chips 

in a complex, multi-million dollar poker 
game. The recognition of our exchange- 
value as voters calls into question the 
use-value of this alienating industry. 


Office-holders are not guided by the 
humble concerns of most of their con- 
stituents, but instead are led by the 
huge non-elective state bureaucracies 
like the Pentagon, CIA, FBI, and 
Federal Reserve Board. For example, 
once the Pentagon begins a program 
like the Bl bomber, a Congressional 
member has little control over the 
scientific, technical, and military experts 
intimately involved. Rather, elected rep- 
resentatives must rely upon them for 
pertinent information in deciding 
defense budget allocations. 

Campaign "donations" also have a 

Beware GeeksBearing GiftA 


A Long & Sleazy History 


1914 Intervention in Mexico 

1915 Intervention in Haiti 

1916 Intervention in Dominican Republic 

1917 Intervention in WWI 

1918 Invades Revolutionary Russia 


1941 Allows Pearl Harbor Attack, enters 

1942 Arrests 110,000 Japanese Americans 
1945 Partitions World with Churchill, Stalin 


1945 Hiroshima & Nagasaki 

1947 Truman Doctrine 

1950 Undeclared War in Korea 


1961 Bay of Pigs 

1962 Fake 'Bomber Gap' and 'Missile Gap' 


1964 Full scale war in Vietnam 

1965 Intervention in Dominican Republic 


• reintroduced draft registration 

• promoted MX missile 

• promoted Rapid Deployment Force 

• "military advisors" to El Salvador 

• OK's Cruise & Pershing II deployment 

• Carter Doctrine 

• Proposed "Limited Nuclear War" 

• Advocates Nuclear First Srike Capability 


Processed World 

unique impact upon a politician's 
perspective. And 1984 was yet another 
record year in the price of candidacy. 
Congressional campaign spending 
alone has gone well over $200 million 
dollars, over $50 million of which was 
contributed by Political Action Com- 
mittees dominated by corporations and 
military-related unions. 

The notion that politicians are ac- 
countable to their constituents is ques- 
tionable considering the source of cam- 
paign funding. For instance in Califor- 
nia legislators received over 90% of 
their funding from outside the districts 
they represent. Even in county and 
municipal elections, such "tainted" 
financial support is the rule. In San 
Francisco, city supervisors seeking 

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re-election received roughly two-thirds 
of their campaign contributions from 
the following "public-interest" groups: 
developers and real estate concerns, 
major corporations and banks, profes- 
sional groups (such as law and account- 
ing firms), and other businesses. 
"Returns on investment" for large cam- 
paign donors are the promises poli- 

ticians do keep. 


With so few options and so much 
corruption, it's a wonder voting enjoys 
the legitimacy it does. For tens of mil- 
lions of Americans, what historian 
Charles Beard once called the "sound 
and fury" of election politics has 
dwindled to a whimper. Research indi- 
cates that voters and nonvoters alike in- 
creasingly share a common attitude — 
skepticism over the government's 
ability to solve their problems, (see, 
e.g. "The Decline of Electoral Par- 
ticipation in America" in American 
Political Science Review No. 76). 

The loss in enthusiasm for elected 
government parallels a steady and sig- 
nificant decline in voter turnnout. Since 
1960 (when 63% of the adult population 
voted) the percentage of voter turnout 
has dropped to a low of 53% in 1982. 
Barely half of eligible voters voted in 
the 1980 presidential election; 78 mil- 
lion did not. If this trend continues, by 
1990 more eligible voters will not vote 
than will. 

Voter profiles suggest that the af- 
fluent are over-represented at elec- 
tion-time. Participation in the 1980 na- 
tional elections confirmed a long term 
trend: 70% of those with annual in- 
comes over $25,000 voted; only 25% of 
those with less than $10,000 did. 

The more money one has, the 
greater is one's power over and stake in 
the narrow spectrum of policy changes 
candidates can be expected to make. 

For example, the combined boards of 
directors and major stockholders of real 
estate, investment, law, insurance and 
banking corporations have the most to 
lose in the short run by even slight 
changes in tax and banking policies that 
politicians can and do change regularly. 
And if the choice between an MX or 
Cruise missile is a no-win proposition to 
most, to arms contractors and sub- 
contractors with billions riding on one 
project or the other, and to the careers 
of Pentagon and intelligence agency 
factions, the controversy is one of sub- 

Any Port in a Storm? 



But for the rest of us, the motivations 
for voting are more symbolic. In a cul- 
ture marked with isolation and aliena- 
tion, election day provides people with 
an opportunity to feel they are a part of 
a nationwide collectivity participating in 
vital public decisions. Like going to 
church every Sunday (and then acting 
with insensitivity and self-interest the 
rest of the week) voting every year or 
two provides a quick, easy way to do 
your duty. The cajoling and guilt-trip- 
ping of voter registration campaigners 
reinforce the sense that when we vote, 
we really are doing something for our- 
selves and society. 

Nonvoters are dismissed by the 
media as "uneducated," marginalized 
by sociologists as "alienated," ex- 
plained away by voters as apathetic. But 
non-voters are part of a significant trend 
in American politics saying that voting 
makes no immediate difference in their 
lives. For them, and for many voters 
too, official politics has lost its vitality 
and relevance. But nonvotes don't count 
for much of anything. Without exercis- 
ing other avenues of political expres- 
sion, disaffected voters are little more 
than a reflection of malaise. 


Voter apathy has presented a chal- 
lenge that the media has taken up with 
gusto. The absence of substantive dif- 
ferences between candidates leaves 
ample room for the "media politics" of 
image-manipulation to transform some 
boring old farts into celebrities. As 
former Nixon speechwriter Ray Price 
succinctly put it in an interview with the 
Village Voice: "[the voters'] response is 
to the image, not to the man... It's not 
the man we have to change, but rather 
the received impression." 

The primaries are "previews of 
coming distractions" and psyche the 
electorate for a full season of entertain- 
ment before the big climax in Novem- 
ber. Politicians are judged more on their 

performance than on the soundness of 
their views and policies. The media 
coverage of the preelection debates 
focused more on style and appearance 
— Reagan's vocal inflections, Mon- 
dale's make-up job — than on the politi- 
cal content of the debates. After the 
second Mondale-Reagan debate, the 
bags under Mondale's eyes prompted 
more commentary than his contradic- 


$. James Greenlee, former cook, Grey- $. 
Shound cashier, assembly line worker, * 
^and the youngest of 11 children from a * 
frSouth Carolina black family: "I'd love to $ 
j£vote if I thought it meant something... I * 
xj-am saying something by not voting. ^ 
*Hell, it may not be the right way. But it S 
^.says something — like the sound of ? 
^silence." n- 

S- 45 year old Enrique Mixco, a 21-year- $. 
j*old emigre from El Salvador advised his * 
jjson (who strongly believed Reagan ^. 
Smust be voted out because he is crazy * 
^and might get us into a war): "To me, * 
»}it makes no difference. Whoever gets in & 
jfthere, it's the same for you. The people * 
j>running the city and the country don't $. 
*care about the poor. So many people are * 
^.hungry on the streets — people looking £ 
Sin trash cans for food. And the rich get *> 
Jricher..." * 

R & 

j* [quoted from S.F. Chronicle] ij. 

$ Med-O, electrical worker and 2-year ^ 

^resident of S.F.: "Despite my desire to «• 

^vote against some cruel and unjust state J 

^propositions, the trade-off simply » 

^wasn't worth it. My driver's license and * 

pother sources of ID are from another $. 

jjstate. Registering to vote would have 4- 

ijgiven California authorities a way to £ 

fctrace me. No thanks." * 

» * 

tiBe part of PW's post-election attitude $. 
2po//. Whether you voted or not, PW * 
Ttfjoould like to know why? Reasonable & $. 
Unreasonable answers will not be * 
^discriminated against. ? 



Processed World 

tory remarks on Central America and 
the arms race. 

For many voters, candidates' records 
are far less important than their ability 
to project optimism for a bright and 
shiny future. Referring to the "art of 

controlled [media] access" with which 
Reagan screens his political moves from 
public scrutiny, New York Times White 
House correspondent Steven Weisman 
recently observed: "Reagan and his 
aides have understood and exploited 



One 21" Sony Trinitron 
$2,500 00 in cash 
Shopping Mall 

Mix together slowly for one 
business day- Monday 
Wait three business deys- 
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thurs- 
Eat on Friday 

Any Port in a Storm? 


what they acknowledge to be the 
built-in tendency of television to em- 
phasize appearances and impressions 
more than information." Hence, 
Reagan's reputation as a "Great Com- 
municator" survived despite his rejec- 
tion of informal press conference ques- 
tioning, his refusal to disclose plans to 
manage a multi-billion-dollar budget 
deficit, and his muzzling of the press 
during the invasion of Grenada. 


' 'The historical memory of the left is 
like that of a pillow: it changes shape 
when pounded by a fist. But it doesn ' 't 
know how to avoid the blow, and it 
always peacefully regains its original 
shape, ready for the next pound- 
ing. "(Jean-Francois Revel, 1976) 

It is plainly a mark of desperation 
that many of today's loudest supporters 
of the ballot were yesterday's civil 
rights marchers, student radicals, draft 
resisters, and workplace rebels. 
Desperate for signs of hope, veterans of 
nonvoting politics saw in Reagan an 
easy mark, and in voting, an easy 
method. With near breathless unanim- 
ity, former activists not only en- 
thusiastically supported anti-Reagan 
voting, but often did so with appeals to 
the good ol' days, as if, to paraphrase 
voting were merely the continuation of 
mass struggle carried out by other 

This sentiment was taken to the 
parks this summer by the San Francisco 
Mime Troupe in the production 1985. A 
street-guerilla-musical theatre pre- 
viously focusing mainly on strikes, oc- 
cupations and confrontational politics, 
the Mime Troupe surprised us with a 
rousing pitch — and real live booths — 
for voter registration. 

The dismantling of the Great Society 
and War on Poverty programs fought 
for and won by 60 's activists was a 
strong motivation for anti-Reagan 
voting. Ironically these very programs 
were not the fruit of voting, but came 
out of an unconventional political rebel- 

lion that, at the time, seemed practical. 
As Robert Brenner recently observed: 

"It was quite clearly the deepening 
radicalization of the civil rights move- 
ment, marked by its growing opposition 
to the Vietnam War, and above all the 
explosion of urban rebellions in Detroit, 
Watts, Harlem, Newark and elsewhere, 
which concentrated Lyndon Johnson's 
mind on his 'Great Society. ' A suddenly 
reform-minded congress passed the 
civil rights acts and War on Poverty 
program from 1964-1965." (Against 
The Current, Fall 1984). 

These programs failed to challenge 
the sources of poverty and racism, were 
inadequately funded and administered 
in a way that further stigmatized 
recipients. Still, they have made a 
practical difference in the daily lives of 
many people. The gains also suggested 
the efficacy of a politics not based on 
voting or political parties. 

Unfortunately, the 60's movement 
toward confrontational politics never 

cohered — its leaders assassinated, 
jailed, Reborn or appointed to teaching 
posts, its constituents in retreat to the 
respectable politics of lobbying and 
voting or to the increasingly marginal 
New Left. Confrontational politics 
steadily declined. The hard-won 60's 
programs and the token military 
restraint the anti-war movement could 
claim to have won have been dismantled 
by succeeding Democratic and Re- 
publican administrations alike. 

Debate of social issues that enlivened 
previous elections -- such as critiques of 
the 2-party system and analyses of the 
limitations of voting as a means of social 
change — were muffled in campaign 
bunting. In an unabashed call to walk 
precincts for the Party of Cruise and 
Pershing 2 missiles, Mother Jones 
editor Deidre English's "How to Beat 
Reagan" (MJ April, 1984) summarized 
the sober reflection of a conference of 
60's and 70' s movement activists: 

' 'Our discussion took off from the as- 
sumption that this is no time to think 
about forming a third party, boycotting 
the elections, ignoring presidential 


Processed World 


It may be that for most people 
"reality" and "truth" are now 4 
outmoded concepts, whose functional 
usefulness has been crushed under, 
sheer weight of numbers of images, 
illusions, sitcoms, advertisements and 
roles proffered by media everywhere. 
When the most powerful "role" in the 
world is occupied by a " B-grade actor, 
and this role is accepted by the vast 
majority of people as credible and real, 
obviously the most fundamental 
distinctions between illusion and reality 
no longer matter. . . RE/SEARCH 

Reagan's hair style . Studies were-:;!;: 
conducted on the marked fascination ;X 
exercised by the President's hair style. X; 
65 per cent of male subjects made ;X; 

;■ positive connections between the X; 

• hair-style and their own pubic hair. A X 
series of optimum hair-styles were X; 
constructed. X-X-X-X-X* 

Reagan's personality . The profound ;X 
anality of the President may be X; 

• expected to dominate the United States v! 
I in the coming years. By contrast, the X; 

late J.F. Kennedy remained the '.; 
prototype of the oral subject, usually \ 

• conceived in prepubertal terms. In !; 
further studies sadistic psychopaths '. 

• were given the task of devising sex j; 
! fantasies involving Reagan. Results > 

• confirm the probability of Presidential > 
; figures being perceived primarily in '. 

• genital terms; the face of L.B. Johnson • 
; is clearly genital in significant •'. 

• appearance — the nasal prepuce, '.; 
; scrotal jaw, etc. Faces were seen as 

;■ either circumcised (J.F.K., Khrush- ". 

chev) or uncircumcised (L.B.J. , 
Adenauer). In assembly-kit tests 
Reagan's face was uniformly perceived • 
as a penile erection. Patients were; 
encouraged to devise the optimum 
sex-death of Ronald Reagan. 

Motion Picture Studies of Ronald 
Reagan reveal characteristic patterns of 
facial tonus and musculature associated 
with homo-erotic behavior. The 
continuing tension of buccal sphincters 
and the recessive tongue role tally with 
earlier studies of facial rigidity (cf., 
Adolf Hitler, Nixon). Slow-motion cine 
films of campaign speeches exercised a 
marked erotic effect upon an audience 
of spastic children. Even with mature 
adults the verbal material was found to 
have minimal effect, as demonstrated 
by substitution of an editing tape giving 
diametrically opposed opinions. Parallel 
films of rectal images revealed a sharp 
upsurge in anti-Semitic and concentra- 
tion camp fantasies (cf. , anal-sadistic 
fantasies in deprived children induced 
by rectal stimulation). 

by J.G. Ballard in 1967 




Any Port in a Storm? 


politics or — in the long run — splitting 
the vote. It was clear from the very start 
that a consensus has developed at the 
leadership level of many progressive 
organizations that this is the year, if 
there ever was one, to get involved in 
the campaign in ways that will count in 
November. " 

English concluded "the message is 
clear... if Reagan gets us into war in 
Central America or the Middle East, 
we're the ones who are going to have to 
run the antiwar movement (again). So 
instead of spending the next five years 
protesting -- let's get our hands on some 

To claim that power, an anti-Reagan 
hysteria was whipped up that rarely 
engaged critical reasoning. Formerly 
engaged radicals were sucked into a 
voter registration strategy. The hope 
that if un-registered voters, especially 
poor and minorities, would turn out, 
then "we" would "get our hands on 
some power" backfired. For the first 
time in decades Republicans vigorously 
conducted successsful voter registration 
drives. In October, newly registered 
voters favored Reagan over Mondale by 
53% to 40% (ABC- Washington Post). 
Hispanics from Texas to California 
registered the Republican way, and 
18-24 year-olds claimed Republican af- 
finity in droves. 


With the possible exception of refer- 
enda, electoral politics tend to table 
aspirations for social change by making 
social change itself the preserve of 
"experts," i.e., professional politi- 
cians. With little recall available other 
than the next election, and with the 
dominance of media-sculpted image 
over critical political discussion, direct 
popular control over our lives will 
remain elusive. 

Confrontational politics bypass the 
hardening artery of electoral politics 
and force the hands of "experts" far 
more effectively than the ballot. 

It was only when housewives in Love 
Canal banded together and forcibly held 
an EPA official 'hostage' that action 
was taken to deal with the toxic pol- 
lution swamping the community. Part of 
their political confrontation was inward: 
women isolated in their homes broke 
down walls of alienation by talking to 
neighbors for the first time; mothers 
realized it wasn't their "inadequacy" 
that made their children sick; and 
everyone refused to stay passive and 
"calm down" until EPA experts, scien- 
tists and government officials got 
around to helping them. 

Similarly, the direct action of anti- 
nuclear activists (along with the declin- 
ing profitability of the nuclear industry) 
played a role in slowing government 
licensing of new U.S. plants. 

It is these kinds of disruptions that 
will help generate real alternatives to 
the stifling society we live in. 

Confrontational politics, unlike elec- 
toral political culture, bring people into 
open and direct contact with one 
another, allowing people to discover a 
collective power that can stir dormant 
imaginations with the creative pers- 
pective of rebellion. Preoccupation with 
electoral politics inhibits this creative 

Until mass confrontational politics 
re-emerge, the hope that U.S. politics 
can transcend a spell-binding depen- 
dence on voting and political parties is, 
well, as good as a politician's promise. 
What Jonathan Swift called the "Guar- 
dian Spirit of a prevailing Party" — i.e., 
the "Goddess" of "Political Lying" — 
will "fl[yl with a huge Looking-glass in 
her Hands to dazzle the Crowd, and 
make them see, according as she turns 
it, their Ruin in their Interest, and their 
Interest in their Ruin." 

— Melquiades, Med-O, & Maxine 

by Susan Packie 

I used to be a pitter for Land of 
Plenty Dates, and I probably still would 
be if I hadn't been fired for 
incompetence. Not true, I was far too 

I took the job on a dare. I had just 
graduated from high school. All my girl 
friends were humming wedding 
marches. My parents were beginning to 
wonder when I would start to date. Then 
I saw the ad: 
WANTED: m-f date specialist — pits 

Since I have always been the pits, I 
applied immediately. The interviewer 
was afraid I was overeducated, but I 
quickly disabused him of this illusion. I 
asked if the process was painful for the 

My first week at the job was 
uneventful. A machine did most of the 
work. I just had to oversee the operation 
— regulate the flow, make sure the 
contraption didn't jam, help out the 
boxer, Maggie. 

She must have answered the wrong 
ad, too. She looked strong enough to 
take on Muhammad Ali. As the dates 
plunged at her, she would make up little 
poems about them. 

After the second week, I began to get 
a little — fruity. Maggie's ditties about 
dropping crates of dates down grates 
and spitting pits were driving me up a 
date tree. 

Finally, when I was just about to walk 
into the main office and tell everyone 
where their dates would fit, I hit upon 
the ideal solution. A pitted date has a 
hole in it, right? An empty space. Why 
couldn't I roll up little pieces of paper 
and stuff them inside? They would be 

like Chinese fortune cookies! I could 
write all sorts of messages and send 
them throughout the fifty states plus 
Japan — our market area. 

My first message was very innocuous 
— "Hi. I'm your pitter. Do you want to 
pitter-patter with me?" I didn't get an 
acceptance, but I didn't get a rejection 
either. I sent out about a thousand more 
of these date surprises. Then I lay low. 

Three weeks later, I started inserting 
my name and phone number. I thought 
of adding my measurements, but 31-28- 
37 doesn't excite many people. Maggie 
had been replaced by Hubert. He 
polished each date before boxing it. I 
didn't see a bright future for him at 
Land of Plenty. 

Six weeks went by and I still hadn't 
heard anything from my note receivers. 
In despair, I switched tactics, cramming 
"STUFF IT!" into the ugly little 
monsters. I was busily working away 
when I heard through the partially open 
office door "Aaaggghhh!!!!" What had 
happened? No one ever ate the dates. 
They all knew better. 


Poor Mr. Hardon had been so proud 
of his product. Wouldn't his mother like 
to try one? Just bite down and taste the 
sweet, crunchy pulp, and... out came 

So I'm back in my bedroom reading 
help wanted ads. All my girl friends 
have been married and divorced since 
last June. Hubie is taking me out 
tonight. Mr. Hardon's mother also 
noticed the unusual shine on her date. 
So I couldn't have been all that 
incompetent if I ended up with what I 
was really after. 



• • » - 

— by Peter Wentworth 

The clangor of the nine o'clock bell 
jerks me out of my seat in the warmth of 
the Teacher's Room and hurries me 
down the corridor and out into the play- 
ground. It is a raw, gusty November 
day. I clutch my mug of tea like a 
talisman as I approach the wobbly, 
wriggling line of kids back up behind 
the big white "20" painted on the worn 
asphalt. All down the length of the 
building, the other teachers are doing 
the same with their lines of kids. 

"Good morning," I say, unconscious- 
ly slipping on the teacher's mask 
(impartial friendliness, enthusiasm, and 
firmness in equal part) and the teach- 
er's voice (the same mix, pitched to 
carry without effort, pushed out by the 
belly muscles like an actor's). A couple 
of rather desultory "Hi's" and "Good 
morning, Mr. Wentworth 's." Antennae 
up, I move down the line of kids like a 
politician, shaking hands, checking 
body temperatures. This is the toughest 
hour of the day. If we can get through 
this without any major incidents, it's all 
downhill until 3:15. 

The typical day in Grades 1-3 kicks off 
with an hour for Reading. At Warren G. 
Harding Primary School (a pseudonym, 
as are all the other names associated 
with the school I'm writing about) we 
have "split reading." That is, about 
half the children in my second-grade 
class come in for reading and "Lan- 
guage Arts" at 9:00 and leave at 2:00 
while the other half arrive and leave an 
hour later. Following the near-universal 
practice, my slower group is the one 
that comes in early. When the faster 
comes in we have roll call, "sharing 
time," and the baroque business of 

collecting lunch money. This involves 
sorting through the change that flus- 
tered parents scrabble out of purses and 
pockets while the school bus mumbles 
and honks fretfully at the corner, and 
passing out the tickets (free, half rate, 
full rate, single, multiple, milk only). If 
a teacher is lucky, she/he has an aide to 
deal with this. If not, bang goes 
teacher's recess. 

After recess, usually Math. After 
Math, lunch — a blessed forty-five 
minutes at Harding, most other places 
only allow half an hour. Then comes the 
loosest hour in the day — Science, 
Social Studies, Art, or whatever, usually 
in half-hour chunks. At two o'clock, the 
early group packs up and heads for the 
bus while the late group gets ten 
minutes recess before struggling back 
in for its dose of Language Arts. After 
dispatching this last group at 3:10, most 
teachers spend a couple more hours 
preparing lessons and materials for 
tomorrow, correcting children's work, 
and cleaning up the classroom. Depen- 
ding on the complexity of the plan, one 
may be there as late as 4:45 to 6:00 pm. 
Bilingual teachers, who have to plan 
two sets of reading lessons routinely 
stay until 5:30. 

As I walk down the line little Teresa 
Paganloc wraps herself around my hip 
with a joyful grin. Richard Guiton, 
handsome as an Ashanti warrior, shows 
me an elaborate paper airplane his dad 
helped him to make. Aminah Freeman, 
big and sassy, grabs my hand and tries 
to yank me next to her. Billy Erskine 
stands glowering, hands jammed in 
pockets, jacket hood up. 

"Hey, Billy," I say. "Looks like 


Processed World 


somebody hit you with the grumpy 
stick." No response. "What's the 
trouble, Billy?" I insist. 

"Ma-a-a-n," he growls softly, star- 
ing at the ground. 

"Spit it out," I urge him. 

"These two kids been teasin' me on 
the bus. I didn't say nothin' to 'm, but 
they won't leave me alone., Ma-a-a-n, 
after school I'm gonna kick their butts! ' ' 
He smacks his fist into his palm two or 
three times, sealing his resolve. 

"Relax," I say — a word I probably 
use with him more than any other. 
"During recess you tell me who those 
kids are and I'll talk to their teacher. 
Meanwhile, we've got work to do, 
OK?" Billy nods sullenly. 

My heart sinks. If Jaharie and Angie 
are in the same kind of mood, the chain 
reaction will blow their reading group 
clean out of the water. It will also 
probably mean the Principal's office 
and parent call before the end of the 


An increasing proportion of children 
in urban public schools are from what 

used to be called "broken homes." That 
is, they are being raised by their 
mothers, sometimes in tandem with 
grandparents and aunts. Father is 
(check where applicable, as they say on 
Welfare applications): separated; on the 
lam; in the joint; psychopathic; alcoholic 
or heavy drug user; and/all of the 

Nowhere are the deeper consequen- 
ces of "Reaganomics" (i.e. current 
capitalist reality, whoever's in charge) 
more visible than in public schools. The 
decrepit buildings, obsolete textbooks, 
and overworked, underpaid staff are 
trivial side-effects compared with the 
havoc the 80 's corporate counterattack 
is wreaking on poor and working-class 
children in the home. 55% of Black 
children are born to single mothers, 
many in their teens; unemployment for 
Black men is officially around 20%; men 
are leaving the labor force at about the 
same rate as women are entering it; 
rape and child abuse are on the rise. In 
my classroom, these statistics take on a 
savage three dimensionality. 

Billy is a case in point. Mrs. Erskine 
is a computer programmer in a down- 
town office, clinging to job and income 

"Geometry Nirvana" 

Them That's Not 


by the skin of her teeth, but at least 
making the same rate as her white 
female counterparts. Billy's father 
hasn't had regular work in four years. 
They separated two years ago, after a 
good deal of misery and some violence. 
Most of what I know about him comes 
from Billy, since Mrs. Erskine hardly 
speaks of him. I've met him once on the 
street, a soft-spoken, gentle-eyed man 
in worn slacks and watch-cap, taking 
Billy out for a cheese-steak sandwich 
on a Friday night. Billy introduces us, 
with surprising pride in both of us. My 
teacher. My Daddy. 

"I know Billy got some problems in 
school, but we always tellin' him to 
study," Mr. Erskine said. We shook 
hands. Walking away, I thought about 
the millions of women working for five 
and six dollars an hour in offices while 
their men, workers who once pulled 
twelve hundred a month before tax, 
along with health, dental and retire- 
ment plan, mope in front of the TV or 
haunt the corner by the liquor store. 
Now the rage and humiliation accumu- 
lates — inside them, abruptly ground- 
ing its voltage through the bodies of the 
very women and children they have 
been trained to believe it is their 
masculine responsibility to "provide 
for." These are the actual human con- 
sequences of what economists call "the 
shift to a post-industrial, service-based 

The other children in line are getting 
restless and testy. "Hey, Mr. Went- 
worth, can we go inside? It's freezin' out 
here!" Thomas yells. There is a small 
chorus of agreement. "OK, let's go," I 
call. Behind me the line shuffles toward 
the door. 

It takes three minutes to get everyone 
up two flights of stairs. Mrs. Atkins, my 
aide, lets in the first arrivals, while I 
break up the two quarrels that have 
developed at the rear. This is a worse 
morning than usual, but not an ex- 
ceptional one. 

Mrs. Atkins is fairly typical of the 

classroom aides in our district — a 
tough, shrewd, good-humored Black 
woman of about forty. I was an aide for 
about a year and a half before I became 
a teacher, so I know the group pretty 
well. Most got their jobs when the 
district was integrated in the mid-six- 
ties. They were mothers of children in 
the same schools in which they now 
work, who came in (initially often as 
volunteers) to save White teachers who 
had not the faintest idea how to cope 
with working-class Black children. 

The aides' miserable pay — $5.33- 
6.20 per hour for what are usually 
twenty-five or thirty-hour-a-week jobs 
— and low status is a result of this 
situation. While most aides have be- 
come literate enough to teach elemen- 
tary school children, few have formal 
qualifications beyond a high-school di- 
ploma. Nevertheless, they are indis- 
pensible — and to a young, inexper- 
ienced teacher like me, invaluable. I 
learned more about managing young 
children from the aides in three months 
than I learned from my "master 
teacher" in a year. 

When I was an aide, I once asked our 
Business Agent, a puffy, thirty-fivish 
little bureaucrat, why our pay was so 
bad. At first he took this a personal 
affront, but after a little he settled into a 
confidential , one- white-man-to-another 
knowingness. Without actually saying 
so, he implied that "these ladies" 
couldn't possibly earn more anywhere 
else, that after all they mostly weren't 
too bright, that besides, the fringes 
were good for part-time and that when 
you came right down to it, they were 
pretty lucky. I walked away cursing 
myself for being too cowardly to tell him 
what I really thought of him: but at the 
time I needed the job and knew he could 
screw me with the district if he took a 
disliking to me. 


Mrs. A takes the most advanced sub- 
group to read a story out loud together 
from the reader. I assign the middle- 
level kids some pages in their workbook 
and steel myself for the lowest group — 


Processed World 

Billy, Jaharie, and Angie. I've tried 
some "Language Experience" when 
I've had time — getting Billy to dictate 
a sentence which I write down, then 
having him copy it over and read it out 
loud, then draw a picture of what it 
says, that kind of thing — but I can't 
work one-on-one very much of the time. 
So the Reading Specialist (who can't 
work with them himself until they've 
gone through the lengthy bureaucratic 
procedure of Referral to Special Ed) has 
prescribed a "linguistic reader." This is 
a simple narrative that builds on "word 
families" (chub/cub/tub, hen/Jen/ 
men) via extensive repetition of a tiny 
vocabulary. The group has already read 
the story about three or four times and 
is crawling through the workbook an 
inch at a time; filling blanks, checking 
boxes, tracing letters. 

I settle the three of them around me 
in one corner of the room. Billy groans. 
"Oh man, not again! I don' wanna read 
this dumb book!" 

Jaharie sees his chance to score off 
Billy." I do, Mr. Wentworth! I do! I 
wanna read it. I can read this book 
goodl" Billy scrunches down in his 
chair with his arms folded tight across 
his chest, pouting, Angie makes a face 
at him and giggles sneakily. 

"Be quiet, Angie!" Billy snarls. 
Angie grins triumphantly. 

"OK, let's read," I say. "Jaharie, 
you start." I have long ago given up 
trying to get Billy to read when he 
refuses like this. Jaharie reads a page at 
a reasonable pace with few errors. At 
the end of the page he pauses trium- 

"I did good, huh, Mr. Wentworth?" 
Before I can say a word he goes on 
"Hey, Billy, you only doin' that 'cause 
you can't hardly read nothinf" 

Billy does his fist-in-palm routine and 
throws his book on the floor. 

"Knock it off, Jaharie!" I say, 
sharply. "Now Angie, you read a 
little." Angie, as usual, has not been 
paying attention. She divides most of 
her time between day dreaming and 
trying to get attention from the boys in 

the class — mostly by flirting and "love 
notes," sometimes, as with Billy, by 
provocation. Now she giggles again and 
starts reading, stumbling over every 
second word. 

"Oooh, you readin' bad, Angie!" 
Jaharie coos, with a brilliant smile on 
his guilelessly beautiful face. "You 
almost as bad as Billy." 

"Shut yo' mouth!" Angie snaps. 

"Shut up yourself, faggot!" yells 
Jaharie, illogically. Angie begins to cry 
and kicks Jaharie. I send her back to her 
desk with her workbook, threaten 
Jaharie with being sent outside, and 
concentrate on Billy. 

With me at his side, encouraging, 
giving total attention, Billy struggles 
through a sentence word by word, like 
someone crossing a river by leaping 
from one slippery, wobbly rock to the 
next, his whole body tense with the 
effort. Another sentence, the same way. 

"Good, Billy, great!" 

Billy shakes his head. "I don' wanna 
read this book no mo'!" He pulls his 
jacket over his head, which usually 
means he's going to cry. At her desk, 
Angie is sitting, eyes unfocussed, oc- 
casionally giving her head a little shake 
or giggling, otherwise doing nothing. 
Jaharie is actually writing in his work- 
book. In a few minutes, or tomorrow, I'll 
try again. 

Every urban elementary classroom 
I've worked in has contained at least 
one or two "emotionally disturbed" 
children who "act out": in other words, 
angry, bitter, self-hating kids who can't 
get along with their peers, their 
teachers or themselves. Most I've met 
were Black or White, some Latino, very 
rarely Asian. Most also come from 
Billy's kind of home — raised by their 
mothers alone, by foster parents, or 
shuffled around between relatives. 
Many are also "learning disabled": 
that is, they have trouble learning to 
read. These three problems — damaged 
family, anger and self-hatred, and 
learning difficulties — interact in 

Them That's Not 


complicated and destructive ways. 

Declining test scores have forced a 
widespread recognition that the obvi- 
ously "disturbed" and "disabled" 
children are only extreme cases of 
problems that afflict much larger num- 
bers of children a lot more diffusely. In 
the recent flurry of anxiety over the 
decline in public education, the Blame 
Thrower has been trained in all direc- 
tions — at teachers of course, at "per- 
missive" curricula and parents, at TV, 
and so on. There are grains of truth to 
most of the accusations (except the 
idea, favored by Reaganoids, that the 
abolition of school prayer is where 
everything went wrong) but none of 
them really get the whole picture. 

It begins with parents — single or 
couples — under terrible economic and 
social pressures. Too much work or 
none at all, not enough money, isola- 
tion, frustration, boredom, despair. 
Children born into this set-up — often 
into a relationship that's already coming 
apart by the time they can talk — are 
chronically insecure. They depend for 
emotional sustenance on one or two 
adults who, worn out by survival, 

seldom have enough time and energy 
for them. 


Mrs. Erskine, a handsome, well- 
dressed woman in her mid-thirties, sits 
trembling at the corner of my desk for 
our twice quarterly conference, which 
we've had to schedule during recess. 

"Often times when I get home I'm 
really exhausted," she tells me, tears 
forming at the corners of her eyes. 
"And, you know, Billy want to play, 
he's got so much energy, but I'm just 
too beat, so he keep on at me and then I 
speak harsh to him... I just don't know 
what to do sometimes." She wants me 
to find some solution, some magic that 
will put Billy back on track. Every 
month or two a parent will unburden her 
or his soul to me as she/he never would 
to a psychiatrist ("I'm not sick!") and 
expect me as a "professional" to be 
able to sort it out. Even as teachers are 
denigrated in the mass media, working- 
class parents are turning to them more 
and more as primary collaborators in 
the basic socialization of their children. 

Processed World 



with Grace! 

1984 CLff SS RING 


Processed World 

School is merely a continuation of the 
problem. Harassed teachers with class- 
es of twenty-five to thirty children 
cannot possibly provide enough indivi- 
dual or small-group attention to make 
up for nurturing deficiencies in the 
home. Nor can they substitute for the 
home's crucial educational function. 
Children learn the essentials of lan- 
guage in the home, not at school. If the 
home lacks "complex verbal transac- 
tions" (i.e. real conversation) between 
its adult members, the child's early 
language learning may be critically 
impaired. Meanwhile, the child in the 
"language-poor" home usually winds 
up parked in front of the TV — a world 
of constant exciting violence, of flashy 
expensive toys dangled before her eyes, 
of reality chopped into three-minute 
segments. Children thus electronically 
weaned can only be infuriated by the 
relatively rigid collective structures of 

the classroom, the static dullness of 
words on paper — and utterly un- 
prepared for the complex tasks it 
requires of them. 

By 11:45, Billy is in a bad way. He has 
thrown his books and pencils on the 
floor several times and is hiding under 
his jacket again. If I try to get him to do 
anything, he just shakes his head 
violently. Finally he mumbles: "Gimme 
a knife." 

"A knife? What do you need a knife 

"I wanna cut myself." 

In a horrified rush of understanding, I 
put my arm around his shoulders and 
speak very quietly in his ear. "Billy, it's 
not your fault. You've been trying hard, 
and when you don't get angry you do 
good work. You're a good guy, Billy, 
and I'm your friend." 

In a moment his anger melts and he 
begins to cry, pulling the jacket over his 
head again. I stay with him for a while, 

Them That's Not 

Public Hunger 




iUjjl Billion 
f ^7 Told 

/ / c u 

J I Eat the 


"Where's the Truth? 


the teachers, as thin as brochures 
have invaded the schools like stock prospecti 
there are no questions asked, 
and whole classes, unprepared 
for information hovering 
all around us filling our lungs, 
die of monoxide poisoning. 

wishing I could just take him out of 
there — out of the noisy, chalky, faded 
room into the open air, and walk and 
talk with him. But I have twenty-seven 
other children I am paid to deal with. I 
get up and go back to the front of the 
classroom to line the children up for 


Everything conspires to make child- 
ren like Billy blame themselves for the 
disaster that is befalling them — the 
short tempers of exhausted, frustrated 
parents, the reproaches and punish- 
ments of exasperated teachers, the fact 
that the majority of their peers seem to 
be doing all right. When they see those 
peers outstripping them in reading, 
math, drawing — peers whose parents 
have time enough to talk to them, 
education enough to fill in for the 
teacher, money enough to stock the 
house with books and educational toys 
— they feel inferior. They are trapped 


I never like the idea 

of working, but people said 

I'd have to face up to it 

someday. It was part of 

the real world. 

After a year 

of teaching high school, 

I returned my real room key 

to the office 

and wrote a letter 

to the local paper 


I'd been hired to sit 

on the very real lid 

of a garbage can. 

A good teacher was someone 

who kept the real stink in, 

and I wanted to 

rub someone's snout in it 

as I staggered away. 

My head hurt 

from a real hangover 

and my stomach was shot 

and my marriage was as real 

as acid rain 

and just as nice. 

I said goodbye 

to a redheaded woman 

I taught with 

who claimed she was 

a descendent from 

the lost continent of Mu. 

Lillian was as real 

and a lot nicer 

than most people I knew. 

Both of us wondered why 

people in the real world 

had to be such assholes. 

by Arthur Winfield Knight 



in a violent oscillation between self- 
hatred (manifested as depression, in- 
ability to concentrate, bitter contempt 
for every scrap of schoolwork they 
actually manage to do) and outbursts of 
rage (smashing things, verbal or physi- 
cal attacks on other children). In 
between are more subtle symptoms — 
compulsive lying and stealing. The fact 
that their parents often feel the same 
way about themselves slams the trap 



Processed World 

At 12:07, the Teachers' Room is 
already full of conversation, clattering 
plates and tobacco smoke. Most of my 
colleagues are women over 45, several 
only a few years from retirement. Since 
declining enrollments and slashed bud- 
gets resulted in a virtual hiring freeze 
throughout the late '70's, new teachers 
like me are still a relative rarity except 
in Bilingual, where the majority are 
young. As a result, there are cliques, 
pecking orders, unwritten rules that 
have evolved over decades of associa- 
tion. The same groups tend to sit at the 
same tables, day after day. I've long 
ago given up trying to spot the Invisible 
Shields around this or that chair, table, 
or conversation and simply plop down 
wherever I feel like it, ignoring snubs. 
Sometimes I'll select the most likely 
conversation, other times I'll seek out 
somebody who can give me advice on a 
particular student. 

Most are glad to be asked. Teachers 
(like jazz musicians, field surgeons, and 
any number of other kinds of skilled 
workers) instinctively socialize their 
knowledge and experience, not out of 
ideological conviction but out of neces- 
sity. Standard openers over the Tup- 
perware boxes of chicken salad and 
glistening mounds of Saran Wrap: 

"What do you do with a child 

"You know what Lamont did today?" 

"How's your little Marina these 
days? Any further out of the zone?" 

"How'd that egg-carton activity work 

Good teachers are obsessed. They 
trade advice, references, anecdotes 
about the children the way other people 
trade recipes and gossip. Mediocre 
teachers join in too, because it's easier 
than trying to go it alone. Yet in all this 
rich exchange of information, the 
amount of social reflection, of stepping 
back from the trees to look at the forest 
is generally negligible. Not that they 
can't make the connections if they get 
around to it. I once heard a group of 

aides and teachers go from the comings 
of the school lunch program, to in- 
creased military spending, to the risks 
of intervention in Central America, to 
the dismal future for their pupils, all in 
less than five minutes. 

As a rule, though, primary teachers 
don't talk much about social questions. 
Nor do they think of themselves as 
workers, although some participate in 
union affairs. When a strike is called, 
they go along. Unlike high school and 
junior-high teachers, who tend to be 
militant, elementary teachers seem to 
regard teaching as simultaneously a 
profession (rather than a job) and as a 
duty, an extension of the mothering 
they have given their own children, part 
of their traditional role as women. For 
the most part, they do not question this 
role (nor the continuing grotesque 
sexism of many teaching materials, 
and, for that matter, of children's TV, 
books, etc.), any more than they ques- 
tion the content of schooling, the power 
relationships within the educational 
apparatus, or the class division of 
society which presents itself so painfully 
in the lives of many of their pupils. But 
also for the most part, and for some of 
the same reasons, they do their best 
within the terms of their situation. 


I watch the "two-o'clockers" charg- 
ing across the playground to where 
others are already lined up waiting for 
the buses. Billy, whose parents help- 
lessly love him but can't live with each 
other. Jaharie, whose junkie father goes 
in and out of jail and in and out of 
marriage with Jaharie's mother. Angie, 
whose father from all the signs (extreme 
aversive reaction to adult male touch 
alternating with open sexual sugges- 
tiveness) molested her until her mother 
kicked him out. Brian and Jake, my two 
White working-class toughs, whose 
parents keep them awake screaming at 
each other. Aminah, bounced back and 
forth between an easygoing alcoholic 

Them That's Not 


father and an ultra-authoritarian Fun- imposed by this situation — affect them 
damentalist mother. Teresa, whose relatively little. For them, the problems 
struggling immigrant parents punish will come later when the kindly, 
her unmercifully every time her grades luminous world of middle-class child- 
are less than perfect. hood starts to wither around sixth or 
Then I turn back toward the room as seventh grade. Even then, for many, 
the "Three-o'clockers" come in from the pleasure they take in learning will 
recess — almost all of them cheerful, survive the schools and everything else, 
studious, cooperative kids. Kids who though it may well be extinguished by 
have at least one parent already there to the necessities of selling their lives 
welcome and talk and play with them away in order to survive. Conversely, 
when they get home at three-thirty. some of the "two-o'clockers" may find 
Kids who are read aloud to every night, some emotional stability and some 
who have their endless questions about jump-start of motivation that will enable 
the world patiently answered, who get them to catch up with the others and 
to travel to faraway fascinating places, escape the trap that has been prepared 
who are encouraged to dream, who are for them. But the fate of the majority 
regularly celebrated as the center of has already been decided: 
attention. For them, the foundations of 

learning are so firmly established at "Them that's got shall get, 

home that the deficiencies of the schools Them that 's not shall lose. 

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learning, the dreariness of the class- That's got its own." 
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VDT Eyes: Embossed L.A. Road Maps? 

radiation as well as reduce glare.) The 

"I'm so light-headed when I walk out 
at night sometimes I'm afraid to drive 
home," confided Susan, a secretary. 

"Since I've started working in front of 
the screen, I've become allergic to my 
hypoallergenic eye-makeup," bitched 
Jeri, a marketing secretary. 

An optometrist prescribed glasses for 
Felix, a computer systems operator 
whose eyestrain (and migraine head- 
aches) began after working in front of a 
Video Display Terminal (VDT). 

Susan, Jeri, and Felix work for a large 
Silicon Valley microchip corporation 
with over 450 VDTs. Recently the 
company purchased over two dozen 
IBM workstations for secretaries and 
the publications department (where I 
work). The workstations include a 
printer, a dual floppy-disk drive, and a 
VDT. The workstations are called 
Displaywriters, a.k.a. "Dismaywri- 

None of the inhouse training sessions 
or 13 volumes of manuals mentioned 
VDT dangers. Nor were such hazards 
generally known among secretaries, 
many of whom had negligible VDT 

One day a memo made its way 
through corporate offices nationwide. 
Addressed to Displaywriter users, the 
memo began "Do your eyes feel like 
embossed Los Angeles County Road 
Maps at the end of the day?" Attached 
was a VDT danger fact-sheet put out by 
a company selling conductive mesh, 
non-glare VDT screens (conductive 
mesh is said to screen low-level 

memo suggested a "collective pur- 
chase" of VDT screens, gratis of the 

The notion that headaches, irritabi- 
lity, eyestrain, allergies, back pains and 
the like might be linked to VDTs had a 
gut-level plausibility. Nearly half 
responded positively to the memo. 
(Among those who didn't, several 
expressed concern over VDT dangers 
but said that they didn't use VDTs 
enough to warrant protection.) Concern 
over VDT dangers spread quickly — 
workstation users passed the memo to 
other VDT workers who then expressed 
a desire for protective screens. 

The manager in charge of hardware 
acquisitions was not reassuring. He 
responded to the requests for screens 
by announcing that there was a 
"purchasing freeze" and that no 
accounting procedure existed to 
accommodate a collective purchase across 
department lines (!). 

A second memo circulated, this one 
informing workstation and other VDT 
users of this absurd, bureaucratic 
impasse. This time, the two-page "The 
Ugly Truth about VDTs" (PW #10, pp. 
56-7) was attached. The memo noted 
that the price of the mesh screen was l /a 
of 1 % of the cost of a workstation and 
suggested that "those of us in 
accounting... find out... how we might 
get around" the impasse. 

Several days later, the memo's author 
was told to report to Accounting. There, 
a manager apologetically suggested 

Hot Under The Collar 


that a group purchase order could be 
arranged after all. Three weeks later, 
after consistent harassment, the 
manager cut a group purchase order for 
protective screens for everyone in the 


It's not exactly clear how the manager 
was swayed in our favor, but rumor has 
it that a pregnant workstation operator 
in Accounting, her concern over VDT 
dangers to her fetus, and perhaps the 
perceived dissatisfaction of her work- 
station users, had something to do with 

It remains to be seen how many 
VDT users will take advantage of the 
opportunity by participating in the 
group purchase. Nor will protective 
screens block the corporation's sales of 
chips to military contractors. But we 
learned something about the dangers of 
VDTs, and most importantly, won 
something that will make our jobs less 
deadly. — Anonymous 

IBM Workers United 

For eight years now, a handful of 
workers at the IBM plant in Endicott, 
New Jersey, have been agitating among 
the co-workers, urging them to take 
action, make demands, and get 
organized to confront management on a 
variety of issues. In an early issue ot 
their newsletter "IBM Speak Up, " IBM 
Workers United raised the demand that 
workers have "a voice of their own," 
separate and independent from man- 
agement. "We find that the manage- 
ment-controlled grievance procedure no 
longer does the job, especially in the 
manufacturing plants where mandatory 
overtime and total management control 
over our lives exist." Other issues 
raised by IBMWU: 

• Aside from making demands for 
better wages, seniority pay and 

daycare, IBMWU has sought to unite 
IBM workers and the surrounding com- 
munity around health and safety issues. 
Through their newsletter, they exposed 
many incidents of hazards to workers 
and residents of the area resulting from 
use of toxic chemicals, irresponsible 
disposal of toxic wastes, and IBM's 
attempts to cover up information about 
dangerous substances. Rather than rely 
on company doctors and government 
agencies that almost invariably condone 
company policies, IBMWU calls on 
workers to organize their own safety 
and health committees, independent of 
management, to force IBM to come 

• In a letter distributed to stock- 
holders in 1979 entitled "Would IBM 
have sold computers to Hitler?" 
IBMWU publicized and protested the 
sale of IBM computers to South Africa. 
The IBM computers were used in 
a registration system known as the 
"Book of Life" which requires everyone 
to carry a pass book with personal 
information. This system is obviously 
used to enforce apartheid. The letter 
pointed to the hypocrisy of IBM's claims 
that they would not bid any business 
where they believed products were 
going to be used to abridge human 

• In a recent issue of their newsletter, 
renamed "Resistor, ' the group 
explains what kind of union they are: 
"So are we a union? By today's 
standards, no. Far too many unions/ 
leaders have neglected the average 
worker, have forgotten the principles of 
the early days and have become 
'another boss.' But, if you take 
Webster's definition, 'confederation of 
individuals working for a common 
cause,' then yes we are. We are 
independent but we do work with other 
unions in coalitions to share information 
that is vital to workers. 

For years, IBM Workers United was 
an underground organization to protect 
members' jobs. But in 1984 members 
took the risk of coming out into the open 
in the hopes of encouraging others to 
work with them. A sympathetic news- 

.".\v.\v.v.\v.v.-.\v.-. .■-•-•. ..•.■.■.•.■.'.'.■.•.'.'.■..■.•.■.■.•. 


"Let Them E 

by Paul I 




Processed World 

paper report on the 1st International 
IBM Workers Conference in Japan held 
in Tokyo in May (which was attended by 
IBMWU organizer Lee Conrad and 
representatives from five other 
countries' IBM workers) helped 
publicize their efforts. Despite manage- 
ment harassment, they have met with 
growing interest and support for the 

For more info, write: IBM Workers 
United, PO Box 634, Johnson City, NY 
13790 or call: (607) 797-6911. 


'Obstructionism,' a tactic and 
strategy used by the FIOM (Italian 
Metalworkers' Union) in August 1920 in 

1) Do nothing you aren't trained to do. 

2) Clean or repair no equipment until it 

is completely off. 

3) Do no job if you don't have the right 


4) Don't volunteer — do only what 

you're told to do — nothing more. 
From French underground during 

5) Take as long as you can to repair 

anything that breaks (they recom- 
mended against sabotage — keep 
the factories running). 

6) If a worker is fired other workers 

should continue to come to work 
anyway (active support by 

7) If the bosses lock out, occupy the 


— Primitivo Morales 

Personal Information 
System: Block Modeling 

Universities and private firms are re- 
searching and (mostly secretly) im- 
plementing the most sophisticated and 
intrusive Personal Information System 
(PIS) yet. This technique, called Block 
Modeling (BM), is based on the 
vacuum-cleaning school of data gather- 
ing — it sucks up and analyzes every- 
thing. A lot of the information it needs 
is already in company personnel data 
banks — the schools employees at- 
tended, their age, race, gender, their 
career history, their neighborhood. 
Much is gathered more stealthily. Com- 
munication channels are analyzed by 
compiling complete records of phone 
calls made, phone calls not returned, 
cc's at the bottom of memos, car pools, 
bowling club teams. The proliferation of 
all the new small computers expand the 
scope of the information that can be col- 
lected (Beware your computerized ap- 
pointment calendar!). 

The obvious use of this technique is to 
"X-ray" groups of workers to search 
and destroy troublemaking dissidents, 
find and reward obedient brown-nosers. 
Personnel planners across the globe are 
envisioning conflict-free worksites. 
Those workers most alike culturally and 
attitudinally are grouped together in 
ways that will supposedly reduce dis- 
ruption of production. 

Interestingly enough, one of the first 
users of BM was a Roman Catholic 
monastery. The technique identified 
three factions who later played a part in 
dismembering the monastery — 
loyalists, "Young Turks," and outcasts. 
Other institutions that have at least re- 
searched block modeling are Bell 
Laboratories, the American Broadcast- 
ing Companies, the Wharton School, 
and the Institute for Social Management 
in Bulgaria. 

Is your boss playing with blocks, too? 

— PaxaLourde 


Hot Under The Collar 


Reality Chasm at B of A 

Bank of America Corporation's "Per- 
sonnel Relation Update" monitors 
higher management, labor legislation 
and union organizing activity. One 
recent article was "Health and Safety 
Aspects of Video Display Terminals." 

In response to the VDT protection 
legislation introduced to the California 
Assembly, the article denies that VDT's 
are potentially harmful — on the basis 
of incomplete and misrepresentative in- 
formation. The article mentions a Na- 
tional Institute on Occupational Safety 
and Health (NIOSH) report as evidence 
that radiation levels are safe. But it 
neglects to mention that the same 
NIOSH report found that VDT operators 
had higher stress levels than any other 
group of workers, and has since been 
discredited by outside research. 

B of A's update routinely details 
preventative measures as if they them- 
selves followed these measures. On the 
matter of 'musculoskeletal discomfort' 
(those severe body pains you get after 
being at the terminal a long time), the 
article says they can be averted by "rest 
periods, variety in work tasks, and 
proper workplace design and furnish- 
ings." On damage to our eyes, the ar- 
ticle says that "proper ergonomics 
[solves the problem], i.e. adjustable 

chairs, tiltable screens, detachable key- 
boards, contrast controls, and glare-free 
lighting." The article skirts around the 
issue of job stress, saying that "the 
level of stress depends on the nature of 
the work, the way it's used, individual 
preferences as well as management 

Sounds good to us, Bank of America. 
But PW researchers working as tem- 
porary word processors have found that 
B of A isn't following its own advice. In 
most departments, the terminal is 
shunted off to the harshly-lit utility 
room. The same small room also con- 
tains the printer (usually without a 
hood) and a noisy photo-copier (love 
those toxic fumes and blinding lights). 
As for ergonomics, any old, too high 
desk will do for the Wang terminal with 
its non-adjustable screen and keyboard. 
And glare — few departments had 
protective shields (glass, definitely 
second rate), and none provided clean- 
ing fluid and soft towels for the layers of 
finger smudges and dust. 

The VDT legislation, if passed (un- 
likely), would not be stringently en- 
forced. It's up to us to look after our own 
interests. Insist on taking your breaks. 
Go after management to buy screens 
and better work tables and chairs. 
Check into having them shut off the 
flickering fluorescents and providing 
you with a couple of adjustable, diffuse 
work lamps. Be a pest — it's your 
health. —PaxaLourde 



Processed World 

Let Them Do Our Dirty Work 

First there was "production-shar- 
ing," a euphemism for the flight of 
industry to lands of cheap labor, 
quiescent workforces, and disregard for 
the environment. Now that the office of 
the future is upon us, U.S. corporations 
want to "share" that, too. With the 
promise of drastically lower costs for 
instantaneous long-distance communi- 
cations, industry analysts and foreign 
leaders are envisioning a new marriage 
of convenience between U.S. enterprise 
and impoverished nations. Although 
"office- sharing" is not new, industry 
watchers are predicting that the 
practice of setting up data-entry centers 
in poor countries is likely to become 
widespread within a few years. 

Until new satellite technology, off- 
shore offices were profitable only for 
low-priority information processing that 
didn't require fast turnover time (like 
subscription and mailing lists). The 
most-noted example of the new trend is 
the American Airlines data-processing 
center in Barbados. AA ships a 
plane-load of all its used ticket stubs to 
Barbados every morning, where data- 
entry operators enter relevant infor- 
mation at $1.50-3.00 per hour, which is 
then beamed back to the American's 
computers in the U.S. 

The attractions for U.S. firms are low 
wages, cheap office space, and 
extremely low tariffs and taxes offered 
by host governments in places like 
Singapore, Philippines, and the 
Caribbean. English-speaking countries 
like Barbados are prime targets for the 
offshore office, and China, another 
country competing for satellite informa- 
tion-processing work, has the special 
enticement of a regimented workforce 
with a 99.5% accuracy rate that earns 
the equivalent of $7 a week! 

When discussing the advantages of 
offshore investments for the host 
countries, the chauvinistic arrogance of 
the business press is only surpassed by 
the self-serving optimism and myopia of 
the governments that are vying with 

each other for U.S. investments. Thus 
Newsweek explains that since people in 
the Caribbean can't possibly afford the 
products offered by investing firms, 
"the best the Caribbean companies can 
hope for is to assemble goods destined 
to be sold in the U.S." Now Barbadans 
can also facilitate services which are 
irrelevant to their own lives. (How 
generous of U.S. firms to permit 
Barbadans to process data so 
Americans can travel by plane!) The 
same article further explains that 
U.S. no longer has a large pool ot 
unskilled workers (what about the 40% 
unemployment among black teen- 
agers?), whereas "huge surpluses of 
unskilled labor [are] present in many 
underdeveloped countries." This "let- 
them-do-our-dirty-work" theory tries to 
rationalize the division of labor which 
allows U.S. citizens to live far better 
than most of the rest of the world. 

Foreign governments and chambers 
of commerce encouraging investment 
unabashedly advertise the cheapness 
and high productivity of their people to 
U.S. business. Government leaders 
justify exemptions from taxation on the 
grounds that they need the foreign 
exchange and jobs offered by multi- 
nationals to improve the standard of 
living in their countries. Furthermore, 
the argument goes, the technology that 
comes with offshore offices will help 
familiarize the labor force with 
computers thus helping to bridge the 
technological gap between industri- 
alized and developing nations. 

There is little chance that satellite 
data processing will fulfill these rosy 
predictions, even in the unlikely case 
that it temporarily relieves unemploy- 
ment. The so-called "surplus" of 
unskilled labor in poor countries is 
largely a consequence of previous 
investment policies justified by the 
same faulty logic. The influx of foreign 
investment in the "underdeveloped" 
countries after WWII was supposed to 
lead to an international division of labor 

Hot Under The Collar 


that would benefit all. Peasants were 
pressured off the land to make way for 
more modern forms of exploitation 
favored by multinationals and local 
governments. While the multinationals 
flourished, countries that were once 
agriculturally self-reliant became de- 
pendent on the developed countries for 

food, and at the mercy of a world market 
in which they had no leverage. Rather 
than strengthen local industry and 
agriculture, foreign investment brought 
with it a dependence on multinationals 
and the markets they control, which in 
turn has led to an enormous build-up of 
debts to multinational banks and 

Peter Lyssiotis 


Processed World 

international lending institutions con- 
trolled by the U.S. and its allies. The 
developed countries exercise tyrannical 
control over domestic economic policies 
through these institutions. 

The offshore office can only bring 
more of the same. Data entry centers in 
Barbados will not bridge technological 
gaps. Most of the office jobs being 
exported involve the most stressful, 
menial kind of computer work, and it 
may be only a matter of time before 
much of it is automated out of existence. 
A country like Barbados could never 
develop an independent foothold in a 
market dominated by multinational 
giants. Even in the best of 
circumstances, useful applications of 
computer technology to domestic 
problems would be very costly, and a 
ruinous waste of resources. 

The cultural consequences of foreign 
investments can be at least as harmful 
as the directly economic ones. The 
office environment (decor, dress, 
design of buildings) promotes a culture 
which emphasizes materialism, extreme 

time-consciousness, and a bland, 
asceptic modernity. The nearly indistin- 
guishable appearance of financial 
districts throughout the world testifies 
to the homogenizing effect of office 
culture. A tiny elite may in fact gain the 
privilege of sampling the commodity- 
heaven that office culture glorifies. But 
far more people will be victimized by 
the looting of the country and the 
devaluation of tradition by multinational 
capital. Maxine Holz 




it's the same every morning, commu- 
ter madness, traffic doesn't move on the 
kennedy, standing still as far as I can 
see downtown, a hundred thousand 
suits stuffed with fat white men, coming 
closer every day to stress-induced heart 
failure, men with keys to the men's 
room at the office, they keep it locked. I 
guess they want to make sure nobody 
steals their shit. 

across the expressway, the illinois 
central rockets by, non-stop. Oliver tells 
me it's the only railroad in the country 
that drives its trains on the left side of 
the tracks instead of the right, inside, 
the brooks brothers shoot past at 70 
miles an hour behind green glass and 
the pages of the wall street journal, 
suburbia on rails. 

I wonder if maxfield is on that train, 
no, he's always at the office by six, he 
probably came three hours ago. 

the b train rolls in. small crowds 
gather by each door; the more indus- 
trious run along the platform to cars 
that look emptier, the tired and sluggish 
simply go the closest. I figure sprinting 
thirty yards to the front of the train will 
cost me more energy than standing up 
the whole way to work. I'm well to the 
rear of the train and the crowd, so I 
struggle in and grab a pole, the doors 
snap shut, and we're off. 

Jefferson park b train, no smoking littering or 
radio playing on the train, addison is next. 

I never ride in the front car. I know a 

by The Kansas 
Clerical Conspiracy 

lot of people like to. Mostly men and 
boys. They put their feet up on the 
window ledge and stare straight ahead 
at everything rushing in. It's different 
from a car or a bus, where there's 
always the engine or the driver in front 
of you. On the train, you're right there 
on the very edge of movement. The 
motorman sits in a little booth right next 
to the front seat. He has his own 
window out the front. He leaves the 
door to the booth open to get some cir- 
culation. With the door open, the people 
in the front seat can see the lighted 
numbers on the digital speedometer. 
You can hear the automatic speed 
regulator buzz when the motorman 
breaks the speed limit. 

Riding in the front, you see what's 
coming. You don't just depend on 
watching the already-encountered slide 
by on the sides. Spot the black and 
yellow speed limit signs on the ground 
by the tracks, the tunnels, the taillights 
on the train ahead. 

I rode in the front seat once, took the 
whole seat, looking forward to a nice 
ride to work. It was a lot of fun for a 
while watching the lights on either side 
of the tunnel separate as we passed, 
things were fine until we got to the final 
underground stretch between grand 
avenue and downtown. It's a two mile 
tunnel with a sharp left turn at the end. 

Leaving the station at grand, we 
picked up speed. The familiar 
squeaking of rubber against steel 


Processed World 

against plastic arose. The train rocked 
back and forth with the unevenness of 
the tracks. The concrete tube in front of 
us was sloping downward, assisting our 
acceleration. Faster and faster. The 
wobbling got much worse, and I began 
to worry, some of the jolts seemed to be 
getting strong enough to throw us from 
the tracks. 

the tunnel lights blurred, another jolt 
shook my feet off the window sill and 
my lunch off the seat. I looked over at 
the speedometer through the open door 
of the motorman's booth, the green 
lines kept rearranging themselves until 
they froze at 60. The tunnel lights 
showed me we were rapidly 
approaching the 90 degree left turn. 

but the train wasn't slowing down. I 
looked over at the motorman. uncon- 
cerned, he held the throttle all the way 
forward with his right hand and was 
looking down at a paperback copy of 
PT-109 balanced carefully in his lap. 
sunglasses, he'd probably been doing 
the same run for 10 years. 

The Hated Suit Monster Claims Another 
Downtown, Bringing the Despised Build- 
ings and Machines in Its Wake!! 

I began thinking gracious god all is 
lost, I'm going to be shredded by wind- 
shield glass, when he expertly throttled 
back with the precision internal timing 
of pure reflex, clipped the turn and 
delivered me intact and shaking to the 
platform under lasalle street. 

All I could think about at work that 
day was John F. Kennedy at the helm of 
PT-109. 1 read about it a long time ago, I 
think it was 7th grade. He made a habit 
of racing other boats in to the refuelling 
dock to avoid having to wait in line for 
hours. They would rocket in full-out and 
reverse the engines at the last second. 
One day his timing was a bit off and 
they smashed into the dock, they called 
him crash kennedy after that. 

addison. no smoking or radio playing on the train. 
California next, California. 

8:47. oh christ, I can't be late again, 
maxfield called me in yesterday, you 
know it's serious when they tell you to 
close the door. 

I think it's time we had a talk. 


Look, I'll get right to the point. I think 
you're showing a serious attitude 
problem, we ask very little from you 
here, but we do expect some things, 
you're never on time, your desk is a 
disaster area, as is your hair, you come 
in sometimes looking like you've slept 
in your shirts, it was made clear to you 
that you have 42 minutes for lunch, it's 
been brought to my attention that you 
took a three hour lunch break last week 
to go home and have sex. this kind of 
behavior is simply not acceptable, 
you've got to develop a more profes- 
sional attitude. I'm beginning to think 
you're unfit for business leadership. 


and the blue jeans have to go. If we 
let one person wear them, we have to let 
everyone do it. and can you imagine 
maggie and kathy coming in here 
wearing calvin klein jeans? I'd never get 
any work done because I'd be spending 
all my time staring at their asses . . . 

when I started listening again, he was 
telling me that monday I'm being 

b train 


demoted to the typing pool, whatever 
that means, then he gave me a general 
pep talk on capitalist economics to bring 
me into line, "if we take care of the 
company, it will take care of us. " 

yeah, sure, it seems to be taking care 
of some of us much better than others. 

Minimum Wage. Because we can't 
pay you any less and get away with it. 

no smoking littering radio playing on the train, 
logan square is next. 

no smoking, radio playing, direct eye 
contact or conversation with strangers 
on the train, at last, a seat, it's the one 
good thing about being terribly late, 
people clear out at California for the a 

despite the noise, the pain, the incon- 
venience, the waiting, the smell and the 
cold of the train, I've run into some 
interesting people in these screeching 
cars. I was coming home late one night 
from dancing. The car was empty 
except for a man who sat down next to 
me after I had gotten on. at one in the 
morning, it might have been taken as a 
threatening gesture, in an empty car, 
the socially acceptable space is at least 
three seats, but I think he just felt like 
being with someone. 

after a brief greeting, we rode 
through the north side in silence. I 
watched the blue sparks splash from 
between the wheels and tracks as we 
went through the turns, he offered an 
occasional verbal musing: 

did you know spiro agnew is an 
anagram for grow a penis? 

imagine what would happen if one 
year nobody bothered applying to 

last year I was thinking of getting a 
vasectomy. I decided against the 
operation on my way to class one night. 
I was across the aisle from a young 
woman and her three year old daughter. 
The little girl was standing, holding on 
to the back of the seat. She swayed back 
and forth with the car and sang a song 
which she made up as she went, it was a 
laughing song about her mother, at 
whom she cast an occasional glance as 


I walk in a cage 

Formed by fences wooden & wire 
Where they're putting up 
Another highrise. 

I walk to work; 
I am employed. 
But is this freedom? 

When an alien lands I'll ask him. 

Christopher Newton 

she sang, just to make sure mom was 
paying attention, the lyric was simple, 
repeated again and again: 

stoned, stoned, stoned 

the young woman sat smiling through 
narrowed eyes, paying undivided at- 
tention, catching each glance with a 
wink, after a few minutes, she nuzzled 
her daughter's ear, trying to cajole her 
into ending the song, for a moment, it 
seemed they were motivated by nothing 
but love and innocence, a precious 
glimpse of matriarchal tenderness, it 
made me think that some day I would 
want to be part of a scene like that. 

and this guy here next to me who's 
been sitting for the last 20 blocks with a 
bag of Chinese food in his lap. 


what's he doing with Chinese food at 
8:45 in the morning? who cares, it's 
smelling up the whole car. here we are, 
everyone trying to find the source of 
those amazing smells without being 
terribly obvious, it brings back dad's 
sermon on the loaves and fishes, how 
bout it god. just one small gratuitous 
miracle, we could use it. the guy walks 
into 77 chow mein on irving park and 
tripp and orders loaves and fishes, to 
go. he joins the core of rush hour traffic, 
between stops, he opens the bag and 
starts spreading food out to everyone in 
sight, people eat with their fingers, rice, 
chicken lo mein, sweet and sour shrimp 
slowly beginning to talk, smile, laugh. I 
sample a little bit of the snow peas in 


Processed World 

Todav it is a fine modern city 

oyster sauce from the old woman with 
blue hair behind me. she takes a 
handful of my fried rice, and the food 
keeps coming, a brown paper cornu- 
copia, egg rolls, barbecued ribs, 
szechuan beef, someone runs a little 
white box up to the conductor . . . 

logan square, milwaukee kedzie diversey. 
change for the a train. 

it's downhill from here, we're about 
20 feet over milwaukee avenue, right at 
eye level with the tennis shoes dangling 
from the power lines, soon we'll be 
under the city speeding noisily to the 
business district. 

in the interim I'm looking for the 
non- white majority of the city, where 
are they? not on this train, no, the only 
black people here are the driver and the 
conductor who operates the doors and 
announces the stations, for our enter- 
tainment today, or maybe for his own, 
he has added an am radio disk jockey 
affectation to his voice as he calls out 
the stops. 

oliver has lived in the same neigh- 
borhood his whole life, ridden this train 
for sixty years, he told me over break- 
fast this morning that there is no op- 

pression of race here. 

how do you feel about the two of us 
sharing a four bedroom house while 
people are living out of u-haul trailers 
on the south side? 

hey, this is a northern industrial city, 
we've got a black running for mayor, 
they can do anything they want here, 
this isn't the south. 

it strikes me that the whole country is 
the south, we've got the up south and 
the down south. 200,000 out of work in 
the city, yesterday's papers reported 
34,000 people, mostly black, showed up 
to apply for 2500 jobs that only last for 
ten weeks, my own employment seems 
completely random and undeserved, 
why me? handed a job without having to 
do anything more difficult than sit in a 
barber's chair for 12 minutes. 

and why is this woman staring at me 
like I've been picking my nose in 
church? I can't help it, my hands in- 
stinctively cover my ears when the noise 
of shearing metal reaches the pain 
threshold, and I'm always the only one 
who does it. can it be that nobody else is 
pierced by this sound? or are they all too 
worried that everyone will think they're 
fools if they cover their ears? I mean 

b train 


it's not like listening to french horn 
practice, where you can sometimes sit 
stoically on your hands, no, this is pure 
pain. I fear permanent hearing loss. I'm 
convinced it's the cause of Oliver's 
partial deafness. 

the tightness in my stomach gives 
way as we turn the last corner and coast 
in. the threat to my hearing past, my 
hands leave my ears to collect my lunch 
and knapsack. 


on the way up the stairs to the street a 
middle aged postal worker next to me 
blows his nose in a paper towel he's 
been carrying since breakfast, he drops 
it on the stairs when he's finished. 

the sun has come up significantly 
since we went underground, the first 
thing I'm able to see after my eyes 
readjust to the brightness is maxfield 
crossing the street in front of the ymca. 
he's on his way to the post office with 
two big manila envelopes under one 
arm. he sees a blind man on the other 
side of the street waiting to cross toward 
him. it's the guy who runs the news 
stand in the lobby of city hall, maxfield 
runs across and grabs his arm to guide 
him through traffic, the blind man does 
not find this at all helpful and tells 
maxfield to fuck off. 

I've been walking to work here for 
seventeen years. I'm perfectly capable 
of getting around alone. 

maxfield releases him to cross with 
only his cane for guidance, the rushing 
pedestrians politely clear a path for him 
and stand by watching as he crashes 
into the usa today box on the opposite 

maxfield continues on to post his 
letters, swaggering a bit, mumbling to 

. . . only trying to help . . . 

he passes me without any sign of 
recognition, it will probably be the high 
point of the day. 


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— Lucius Cabins 


Sports are always present in modern 
life. Right now (late October) in the SF 
Bay Area, 49er Fever is setting in again 
as the team is off to a fast start. Mean- 
while Bay Area fans are wringing their 
hands over the failure of the Giants and 
A's in this year's baseball season. Since 
the Giants have lost money for the past 
few years, the owner has put them up 
for sale, which has led to a civic com- 
mission to "Save the Giants" and build 
a new stadium in SF. In the U.S. there 
are millions of sports fanatics — spec- 
tators and participants. Even many 
non-fans can't help but know some 
sports trivia. 

Part of the appeal of sports is that 
they offer a system of understanding, a 
world of order with clear rules and 
limits (in sharp contrast to the confus- 
ing, topsy-turvy "real world"). Sports 
provide intense emotional ups and 
downs, as one's game or team succeeds 
or fails. Instead of the muted grayness 
and underlying anxiety that pervade 
much of daily life, sports provide clear 
resolutions and emotional catharses for 
the "fan." 

I couldn't begin to write about the 
ideological implications of sports if I 
didn't have a deep personal involve- 
ment with sports dating to my earliest 
memories. Sports have been important 
to me for 25 of my first 28 years, and I 

still enjoy following the baseball season. 
I have played and watched baseball, 
basketball, soccer, frisbee and golf — 
each has absorbed many hours of my 
life, as a participant in the games them- 
selves, and in the culture surrounding 
each sport. 

Each sport was deeply satisfying, 
though at the time I never thought much 
about why. The pleasure of doing well 
at sports reinforced my self-esteem as I 
grew up. I gained a command of the 
statistical nuances of the games and 
developed a good memory for numbers 
which satisfied my desire for a concrete 
understanding of "reality" (the game) 
— as well as my not-so-admirable 
desire to compare my own knowledge to 
others'. Statistics delighted me as a 
young boy; baseball cards and baseball 
games contained my fantasies for 
several years. Also, my identification 
with the style of certain sports heroes 
made me feel connected to the broader 
community they symbolized. 

"The Oakland A's, those swingin' 
A 's, made [getting into baseball] easy. 
They were not just good... they were a 
gimmick whose time had come. The 
team's long hair and mustaches, 
whether grown for love or money, made 
them the first sports heroes who looked 
just like me — and a lot of other people 

We rem 


like me. With their Haight-Ashbury 
coifs, arm-in-arm egalitarianism, and 
easy-over manner, the A's were 
baseball's first mutants. They were an 
on-the-field expression of the ways in 
which the diffuse rebellion of the Sixties 
had succeeded, and the ways in which it 
could be so cunningly packaged. Their 
upcoming confrontation with the 
clean-shaven Cincinnati Reds [1972 
World Series] was not just a fight for the 
championship, but a rite of opposite 
forces, a sporting Yin and Yang. A 's 
versus Reds was hips versus squares, 
freaks versus jocks, new versus old. 
Them against us. ' ' 

—BUMP CITY by John Krich, 1979, 
City Miner Books, Berkeley CA 

This quote aptly describes my own 
attitudes leading up the '72 World 
Series. The A's' anti-macho style and 
implied anti-military stance — com- 
bined with a winning team — captured 
the fan in me. I'm still fond of the A's to 
this day, even though now they aren't 
much different from other teams, either 
in style or content. 

Part of my sudden interest in soccer 
when I was 10 in 1967, I realize now, 
came from the more "hip" styles 
adopted by some of the players (in par- 
ticular I remember the Beatles haircut 
of a player named Willie Roy for the 
Chicago Spurs soccer team, as becom- 
ing a model for me, also his "cool" 
floppy kneesocks). The fact that soccer 
was the most popular sport in the world 
lent a certain zealous, evangelistic tone 
to my exhortations to my friends to get 
interested in soccer and practice! I 
really believed in soccer! 

I always enjoyed the sense of 
camaraderie with my teammates. Like 
most people, I liked being part of a 
team, working together with others 
toward a shared goal. The mutual de- 
pendence between teammates creates 
personal bonds that are often lacking in 
people's personal lives. Playing basket- 
ball and baseball gave me an avenue to 
integration with my black classmates in 
Junior High and High School. Without 

"P.E." I would have remained ghet- 
toized with my white school chums, as 
most kids tended to segregate them- 
selves socially. 

After I was about 15 I never again 
participated in team sports, except golf. 
But golf, with the icky-clean and 
straight image of the PGA, never ap- 
pealed to me on the symbolic level. I 
just enjoyed the walk in pleasant out- 
door surroundings, playing this chal- 
lenging game. The unintelligent, 
non-conversational people I played with 
eventually drove me out of the game. 

None of the relationships I had with 
teammates in any sport lasted beyond 
the time we played together. The com- 
munity created by sports is a superficial 
one in human terms. Lasting connec- 
tions need other types of friendship and 
joint activities. 

The Joy of Spectating 

"...the language of sports is the 
symbolic glue that links people in 
taverns, offices, and car pools across 
the country. Sports talk is concrete, 
personal, and its cues are readily un- 
derstood. Talking about the team be- 
comes the core of everyday communica- 
tion... Talk about the team keeps the 
fire of solidarity burning long after the 
game ends and the fans must return to 
the more mundane tasks of everyday 

— Richard Lipsky, HOW WE PLAY 

THE GAME (Beacon Press, 

Boston 1981.) 

Some men find in sports spectating 
the same kind of interest that women 
have for soap operas and gothic 
romance novels (although these inter- 
ests are not completely sex-segre- 
gated). On one level it's just an easy es- 
capist pasttime — it's cheap and re- 


Processed World 

quires little effort. It can be a com- 
pletely alternative world for the absorb- 
ed fan, to the point of their being 
reduced to an uncommunicative blob 
except for questions about sports. But 
the vicarious pleasure of sports is also a 
expression of desire for human contact, 
for ways to involve oneself in the world. 

Sports knowledge provides one with a 
passport to conversation with people 
everywhere. Throughout the U.S., 
regardless of how alienated you might 
feel from someone in an uncomfortable 
situation, you can usually (if it's a man) 
bring up baseball or some other sport 
and break through the wall, at least su- 
perficially. U.S. men in particular have 
a hard time being open, honest, and 
emotional in public. Sports allows men 
to share their giddiness, sentimentality, 
or depression over a sports event. 

The rush of emotion in an excited 
50,000-strong crowd is a sensation we 
seldom feel in any other arena in this 
society (except possibly religion). The 
highest I ever felt from a sports event 
was after game 5 of the '72 World 
Series, the A's had staged a miraculous 
comeback in the bottom of the ninth 
with three consecutive pinch hit singles 
and won the game. I, and about 15,000 
other ecstatic fans poured out into the 
cloudy night, yelling and cheering, and 
went by shuttle bus to the BART sta- 
tion. All the way home on the BART 
train the emotional charge in the air was 
absolutely contagious. Everyone felt 
extremely close to all the other fans in 
the train, and we all had the (illusory) 
sensation that we had accomplished 
something that night. 

A new development in sports spec- 
tating, apparently originated by the 
University of Washington football team 
fans in the 70's and widely adopted in 
baseball stadiums nationwide this year, 
is the Wave Chant. In this, fans get up 
from their seats section by section and 
sit down again rapidly, sending a wave 
of humans around and around the 
stadium. I've seen this done at the most 
unlikely times, totally unrelated to the 
game on the field. I think it is a way for 

people to experience the sense of being 
part of a conscious mass, though I doubt 
if many actually think about it while 
doing it. The Wave Chant symbolizes 
the ambiguous quality of sports in- 
volvement. As a spontaneous act of a 
large collectivity it implies the pos- 
sibility of large collective action (Some- 
times it's semi-spontaneous as when 
encouraged by a cheerleader like Krazy 
George at A's games). 

Insofar as this concerted human effort 
is contained within the rules of sports — 
in a stadium, and done for the purpose 
of cheering on a team to victory — it 
remains a wispy shadow of what real 
collective action could accomplish in 
daily life itself. And it certainly cannot 
be argued that the collective thrills of 
sports fandom provide any practical 
lessons in how to actually self-organize 
and live collectively. But sports do offer 
a taste of the emotional pleasure in- 
volved in collective experiences. 

Collective euphoria can also be used 
and abused by national leaders and ter- 
rorist dictators like any recent presi- 
dent, Hitler, Stalin, or Mao. Mass 
pageants and the collective emotions 
brought on by the wave chant are easily 
used for nationalistic and patriotic 
political goals. The Olympics (see 
below), for example, made good use of 
mass audience participation in its open- 
ing and closing ceremonies. 

Sports: On the Job and At the Front 

Team sports are closely linked to 
work in several ways. For one thing, 
people wish their worklife would be as 
clear and uncomplicated as the 
sportsworld seems to be. Many 
managers play on this desire and use 
sports metaphors and concepts to in- 

We're #1 


tegrate workers into management's 
overall goals. "Not a team player" is a 
serious charge in the realm of business, 
just as concepts of sacrificing for the 
"common good," i.e. for the company's 
profits, work to reinforce submissive 

Like work-life, life with the team is 
hierarchical and primitively authori- 
tarian. Most professional athletes in the 
U.S. only recently escaped indentured 
servitude with the rise of free agency in 
the mid-70's (a lucky few becoming mil- 
lionaires, while most now get the salary 
of a middle manager). It is still common 
to refer to players as the property of the 
team owner. A Bay Area sportscaster 
recently asked Matt Keough, a former 
Oakland A's pitcher, "You're Yankee 
property, aren't you?" He answered, 

Each team is controlled absolutely by 
the owner, and there is an official 
management hierarchy from the owner 
down to the manager and his coaches on 
the field. In this respect it closely 
resembles any company. In the end, 

What kind of 
Americans are your 

Now get out there 
and beat those 
goddam commies 1 . 1 . 

after heroism and success and failure 
are dispensed with, it's profit that 

Professional sports exist to profit 
from ticket sales. Sports spectating also 
serves as a vehicle for the additional 
sale of other products through TV and 
radio. The drive to display winning 
teams and superstars is fueled by 
financial, not athletic "performance." 
With the recent easing of restrictions 
against receiving money while compet- 
ing in amateur athletics, sports is in- 
creasingly dedicated to the dominant 
buying-and-selling mode of life. 

Corporate leaders easily adopt sports 
language because the profit interest of 
the company converges with the victory 
(read 'profit') interest of the team. It 
wasn't always this way. It's only been 
since the 1920' s that sports has been 
promoted in a big way for profit. Inter- 
estingly, this transformation of a 
formerly free, leisure time activity into a 
profit making industry coincides with a 
general expansion of the realm of capi- 
tal into all sorts of new spheres in the 


Processed World 

early part of the century. The 20's also 
saw the advertising industry get off the 
ground for the first time, which deeply 
affected the "non-working" (i.e. 
non-wage-labor) lives of millions, 
women in particular. 

Because people enjoy sports and 
accept the structure of the games, 
businesses can legitimize their own 
hierarchies by applying sports meta- 
phors to their organization. Just as cor- 
porate leaders benefit from identifica- 
tion with the ideology and hierarchy of 
sports, so do politicians. 

Identifying with the success of one's 
team or sports hero (which also means 
the defeat of another) is what makes 
sports exciting to many people. Since 
sports participants are in turn identified 
with their "homes" — the city or 
country they come from — enthusiasm 
for sports translates into municipal and 
national allegiance. Municipal and na- 
tional pride ride on the backs of players 
of the Home Team. Because of the in- 
tensely personal commitment fans have 
to their teams, attachment to 
(American) culture via sports involve- 
ment acts as a far more effective stabi- 
lizer than political propaganda. After 
all, if you are prepared to "wait til next 

Holy City BBQ 

"Ribs seared 
by the Eyes of Christ 

year" for your team to win, you may be 
more inclined to wait til next year (and 
next year and next year) for desired 
political and social changes, if you are 
thinking of such things at all. 

Government leaders at all levels are 
quick to associate their own image with 
sports success. This is as apparent in 
the Eastern bloc as here, where athletic 
excellence earns a highly privileged 
lifestyle, and national "respectability" 
depends on victory in international 
sports competition. The relationship 
between politicians and sports subtly 
helps to legitimize the activities of civic 
and national political elites, even if one 
doesn't like the personalities or 
programs in power. 

We're #1? 
Part 2 

The Olympics: 

A Case Study 

' 'Beyond all the glory, the grandeur, 
the gold, above the roar of the 
record-breaking crowds, something 
very special happened at the Games of 
the XXIII Olympiad in Los Angeles. A 
renewed spirit of pride and patriotism, 
of brotherhood and a belief in ourselves, 
echoed across the land — and indeed 
around the world... ABC is proud to 
have been a part of the Olympic spirit 
that lifted the mood of our nation... " 
— Full Page ABC ad 
SF Chronicle, 8-16-84 

In the Olympic games, identification 
with the National Team represents an 
involvement with a Project of National 
Success. In the LA Olympics, this push 
for national participation and identifica- 
tion reached new heights of patriotic 
manipulation. A closer look at the 
Olympics as a media event (which is in a 
sense an extremely concentrated ver- 
sion of the many hours per week of 
sports broadcasting in general) reveals 
an integrated campaign of ads, news, 
and Sports Spectacular. 

The TV coverage, through which 

We're #1! 


most of us experienced the Olympics (if 
we did at all), focused heavily on US 
athletes for the US audience. ABC as- 
sumed that all countries would only 
want to see their own athletes and 
events in which their country suc- 
ceeded, so they sent footage focused on 
events and athletes of the country to 
which they were sending broadcast sig- 
nals. Those of us in the U.S. were fed a 
strict diet of smiling U.S. athletes, and 
when we once in a while saw someone 
from an African or Latin American 
country, we were quickly informed 
(almost apologetically) by the ABC an- 
nouncers that they were students at a 
U.S. university. 

Anthems, especially the Star 
Spangled Banner, played on the TV 
night after night, like a twisted 
nightmare of patriotic nirvana. Vic- 
torious athletes invariably received 
large flags of their country and would 
then proceed to run the banner around 
the arena, track, or pool, to show how 
much they loved winning for their 
country. And the L.A. crowds chanted 
"USA USA USA" throughout nearly 
every event, trying to embarrass the 
contending athletes out of the arena. 

Athletic success stories are presented 
as models of opportunity for upward 
mobility and fulfillment. Ideologically, 
the Olympics (and sports in general) 
reinforce the view of society as a 
meritocracy. The "fittest" not only sur- 
vive, but climb out of their social class 
into a higher, better-rewarded role. 
Olympians Valerie Brisco-Hooks of 
Watts in LA won 3 gold medals, Daley 
Thompson of East London won the 
decathlon, and numerous US blacks and 
chicanos took medals in boxing and 
track and field. Considering the reality 
of minority opportunities, these are 
powerful success stories. 

Corporate Double-Talk 

The advertisements featured during 
the 100+ hours of Olympic coverage 
were an integral part of the overall ex- 
travaganza. Major corporations rose to 
new heights of Orwellian double-talk, 
with their preposterous claims of all the 
good they are doing for their country, 
the athletes, and the people. Moreover, 
the cycle of advertisements repeated 
every couple of hours, so if you watched 
3-4 hours you'd hear the same mes- 
sages again and again. Repetition is one 
of the most effective ways of "com- 
municating," especially on TV. 

Bud Lite commercials featured 
bizarre little fables of hard work and 
sacrifice. Steel workers "gave up fish- 
ing trips, worked longer hours and on 
weekends... All so a co-worker could go 
to Los Angeles and see his daughter 
compete in the Olympics" and then 
joined their boss in a beautiful display 
of class harmony in watching the 
Olympics on the foreman's tiny TV. 
Another Bud Lite spot filled viewers' 
screens with a construction worker 
thinking to himself as his day ends: 
"Never was much of a flag- waver... 
Guess it's cuz I didn't live during the 
Depression... or go to WWII like my 
dad... But there's something about 
these Olympics that really makes me 
proud to be an American..." 

Dole Pineapple took credit for Joan 
Benoit's victory in the first women's 
Olympic marathon, presumably since 
they helped bankroll her training. Mars 
candy company portrayed their Snickers 
bar as "Snack food, good for when 
you're hungry."!! Only on U.S. TV can 
candy bars be blithely called "food!" 

ABC itself was not to be left out of the 
Olympic advertising orgy. Ten second 


Processed World 

teasers featured excerpts with a voice 
saying "My country needs me, I'll 
never turn my back on this country!" to 
promote an Air Force-based dramatic 
series "Call to Glory." And ABC News 
played its typical, carefully honed 
ideological angle (let's not forget that it 
was ABC with its "America Held 
Hostage" during the Iran crisis that ag- 
gressively tried to break the "Vietnam 
Syndrome"). The nightly news Special 
Segment just before the prime time 
Olympic broadcast featured a piece 
called "Freedom From Fear". Local 
L.A. residents were shown serving 
homemade food to the massive police 
force patrolling their neighborhood for 
Olympic security. "People don't care 
about the Olympics, they care about the 
police" said a black woman organizer of 
the feedings. She and her community 
organization are petitioning the LA city 
government for more police presence all 
the time, since crime has dropped to 
practically nothing during the Olym- 
pics. Normally the LAPD "serves" 
ghetto and barrio residents with 
violence and harrassment, with murder 
of unarmed "suspects" a not infrequent 

I was viewing the Olympics from 
Boston when a race riot erupted in 
Lawrence, an aging former industrial 
town nearby. On the midnight news 
after prime time Olympic coverage, the 
riot between Hispanics (mostly recently 
arrived from the Dominican Republic 
and Puerto Rico, unemployed or on 
welfare) and white youth, many from 
poor French-Canadian families was 
headline news. The most shocking 
aspect of the story was the scene of 
white youth chanting "USA, USA, 
USA" at Hispanics, identical to the 
hysterical patriotic chanting from the 
Olympic crowds in LA. The end of the 
remote segment from the scene of the 
riot concluded with the sound of march- 
ing police boots. 

The Olympics delivered an ideologi- 
cal package coast-to-coast. In dutiful 
response many people experienced the 
thrills of the Games as the thrill of a 

U.S. victory, hence the prevalent "USA 
USA USA" and" USA #1" that swept the 
nation. But a Big Victory against whom? 
One third to one half of the world class 
competition stayed home in the Soviet 
bloc boycott. In spite of this, ABC was 
able to use the Olympics to whip up 
patriotism and a sense of national con- 
quest, just as the Russians did at 
"their" Olympics in 1980. 

Of course, none of this overall 
package would hold together if it 
weren't for the "real drama" of the 
events and the athletic competition. I, 
too, in spite of my disgust for the ideol- 
ogy and manipulation, was able to enjoy 
and even be excited at times by the out- 
standing achievements of various ath- 
letes. The gripping battles in men's and 
women's volleyball, the track races, the 
gymnastics, to name just a few, 
provided a fair share of great sports. 
For me the pleasure was in the fierce 
competition and close contests. 

Sports succeed in tapping into emo- 
tional desires for friendships, com- 
munity identification, and the ups and 
downs of success and failure (a "safe" 
failure without serious repercussions 
other than "defeat"). It is also one of 
the few remaining areas of acceptable 
play, and a place to unabashedly release 
all kinds of pent-up emotions. Many 
find an escape from their real problems 
and the problems of the world in sports. 
In stress-filled modern society sports 
spectating can be a passive escape from 
the tensions of daily life, and in that way 
it serves as a safety-valve for the 
system. But not all spectating is simply 

I can imagine that people who enjoy 
sports could direct themselves toward 
far loftier goals than rooting on the 
Home Team. But that assumes that they 
understand the emotional context of 
their pleasure, and desire to transcend 
the capitalist satisfaction of that 
pleasure. This article contributes to un- 

We're #1! 


derstanding the emotional context, but 
discovering the desire and methods of 
getting past big money sports for spec- 
tating is a more difficult problem. After 
all, the best athletes are fools if they 
don't get paid a lot of money for their 
skills, in this society. So if we want to 
see the best, we're stuck with the pur- 
chase of commoditized leisure time. 

The answer lies in turning loose the 
desires for free community and play, 
which in most cases underlie the 
pleasure of sports. Practically speaking, 
how to "turn loose" desires isn't ob- 
vious, but if we can, we may help to 
erode the edifice of political and social 
stability which organized sports 
presently does so much to reinforce. 

Lucius Cabins 

7:12 AM. A red glow in the east is visible 
through the haze over San Francisco Bay 
as the Peninsula train scatters water birds 
along the shore. I'm trying to sip coffee as 
the railcar rocks side-to-side. Gotta wake 
myself up. Another day as a drone in the 
computer industry lies ahead. I've got my 
feet up on the facing chair, reading the 

The name of my employer, Tandem 
Computers, draws my attention to a small 
item. Another article about poisoned 
groundwater in Silicon Valley. Tandem 's 
main assembly plant and world head- 
quarters is located on the site of a former 
Four Phase chip-making plant in Cuper- 
tino. When Four Phase abandoned the 
facility, they left behind many gallons of 
toxic chemicals in underground tanks. 
Only it seems they never told anyone about 
it. Now leaks from the tanks have been dis- 
covered. I know my co-worker John will 
not be happy about this. He lives near that 
site. Doting father that he is, he will be 
concerned about any possible affect on his 
two baby boys. 

Brakes squeal as the train makes 
another of its many stops. The car fills 
with chattering school kids. Hook up from 
the paper. A familiar station facade, with 
its small, opaque window panes tells me 
we're at Palo Alto. Not far from this sta- 
tion is the Stanford Research Institute. 
What arcane military plans, I wonder, are 
being discussed there this warm valley 
morning? A missile guidance system des- 
tined for submarines roving off the 
Siberian coast? How to load a C-130 to fly 
the maximum firepower to Honduras? 
The pickety-pok of wheels hitting rail 
joints picks up as the train gets rolling 

A knot of workers are talking in the 
parking lot as the train glides past the 
Westinghouse plant in Sunnyvale. This 
facility makes guidance and navigation 
systems for such military projects as the 
Cruise missile. This reminds me of John 's 
comment the day before: "At least Tan- 

dem doesn 7 do military work. " The gov- 
ernment doesn't buy many of their 
machines at any rate. Not yet. However, 
after ADA was adopted as the Defense 
Department's official language, Tandem 
decided that its future computers must be 
based around that language. With all the 
companies lined up at the Pentagon feed- 
ing trough, they don 't want to lose out. 

Tons of cash for missiles that hopefully 
will never used, but little money to moder- 
nize this rail line. The newest railcars were 
built in the 1950s. New cars are slated for 
the line in the near future, or so it is ru- 
mored. But even so, they '11 still be pulled 
by slow and inefficient diesel engines. 
With all of the road crossings, they'll win 
no trophies for speed. Fvery so often a 
hapless motorist has an unfortunate ex- 
perience at the hands of a massive diesel- 
electric engine. This area may be on the 
cutting edge of technological prowess, yet 
I commute to work on a moving museum. 

The train slows for the stop in the Oak- 
mead Industrial Park. I jump off, along 
with a stream of fellow wage-slaves. The 
lady across from me on the shut tie bus is 
wearing a severe dark-blue suit, and a 
"Memorex" badge. 

The bus dumps me on the edge of the 
road. You can gauge the significance of 
the auto in this area by the fact that side- 
walks are nonexistent and buildings hide 
behind parking lots. As I traipse across the 
inevitable parking area, I'm greeted by the 
lettering on the doors, "Customer Engi- 
neering Headquarters Operations. " I 
wave to the receptionist. Another day 

Working lor parasites 

Tandem's particular niche in the 
market is the manufacture of large 
computers that are "fault-tolerant." This 
means the machine can continue working 
and minimize loss of data when compo- 
nents fail. For example, the computer 
monitors its own power supply and can 
sense when power is beginning to go out. 

Down in the Valley 


Backup batteries then go into operation, 
allowing time for the computer to 
take all work then in progress on VDTs 
and save it on disc. This can minimize the 
loss of data, a feature that is of particular 
interest to banks. If anyone owes them ten 
cents or a million bucks, they don't want 
to lose track of it. 

Tandem's computers were particularly 
designed for situations where users would 
interact with them. Such as your local 
Automatic Teller Machine. Citibank, 
which was the first bank to go in for ATMs 
in a big way, is Tandem's biggest cus- 

Building computers for the banks may 
seem less threatening than building a 
navigation system for a Cruise missile. But 
it is ultimately just as useless to human 
welfare. Banks are in the business of mak- 
ing money by lending out other people's 
money. They don't make any product that 
directly satisfies human needs or desires. If 
you get credit from the bank to buy a 
house (no easy trick these days), it's not 
the green folding stuff that does anything 
to make you happy, the house is what 
you're interested in. And bankers don't go 
out and build houses in their three-piece 
suits. Carpenters, plumbers, electricians 
and so on are responsible for the existence 
of houses. But because getting anything 
that we want depends on having money 
under the existting social arrangement, the 
banks can exploit this to build up their 
power and wealth while doing nothing of 
actual benefit to human beings. As such, 
the banks are social parasites. 

"Participatory Management' 

Faced with the crumbling of worker 
loyalty and a less cooperative workforce, a 
new management philosophy, "participa- 
tive management," has come to the fore in 
recent years. Sometimes this goes under 
the rubric of "Quality of Worklife." A 
number of the newer electronics com- 
panies like Tandem have developed this 
management style. This theory is a recog- 
nition of the fact, paradoxical as it sounds, 
that there are times when the bosses' con- 
trol over their workforce can only be 
strengthened by giving the appearance of 

sharing control. 

This involves such practices as holding 
regular staff meetings to discuss goals and 
problems with workers, allowing workers 
to raise questions and provide suggestions. 
The purpose is to encourage a sense of 
commitment and loyalty to the labor pro- 
cess — and to the company's profit-in- 
spired goals. 

According to a Tandem employee mag- 
azine, which contains the glib PR and puf- 
fery usually associated with such rags, I 
came across the following description of 
their "participation" con-game is "like the 
president and the House of Represen- 
tatives and the Senate. The manager is 
there as a check against manufacturing 
people, just as the manufacturing people 
keep the manager in check. We've got the 
architecture of a democratic system ..." 
"Capitalism and humanism are converg- 
ing," chirped Jimmy Treybig, the char- 
ismatic ex-salesman who founded Tan- 
dem. "Tandem's a socialist company." 

The star in Tandem's "participatory 
management" program is their video dis- 
play terminal (VDT) factory at Austin, 
Texas. When the workforce was first 
hired, they were allowed to choose bet- 
ween two methods of building the VDTs: 
Either they could work on an assembly 
line, and each worker would do just one 
fragment of the operation repeatedly (the 
Taylorist alternative), or else each person 
could build the whole terminal from start 
to finish. 

The workers chose to build the whole 
terminal. After assembling the VDT, the 
worker tests it and then attaches a sticker 
with his or her name on it. The idea is that 
each person will feel motivated to take 
greater care — and the company will not 
be embarrassed by malfunctioning VDTs 
in a customer's office. 

On the other hand, when top manage- 
ment imposed a nine-month hiring and 
wage freeze at Thanksgiving, 1982, this 
was imposed as an edict from the top. No 
"participation" in that decision. The com- 
pany's 14.2% profit rate was higher than 
average for U.S. business as a whole, but 
not high enough to suit the top brass. 
Management still makes the decisions. 


Processed World 

They may listen to workers' suggestions 
but they are under no obligation to follow 
them. They are free to sift through worker 
suggestions and choose the ideas that fit 
their goals, such as increasing productivity 
and having fewer product breakdowns. 
The analogy with the "checks and bal- 
ances" system of the federal government is 
entirely phony since workers certainly are 
not accorded the right to veto manage- 
ment decisions. 

The underlying authoritarianism occa- 
sionally pokes out from behind the "parti- 
cipatory" smokescreen, as I witnessed 
during a minor incident early in my tenure 
at Tandem. The head of my department 
had been scheduling the staff meetings to 
occur just before the 4 PM Friday beer- 
bust (a company institution, with free 
beer), which meant that no one could leave 
early. Some members of the department 
raised the suggestion that meetings be held 
earlier in the day. John, the fellow with the 
two baby boys, had been taking advantage 
of the company's "flex-time" policy to 
leave early on most days so that he could 
see his wife before she went off to her job 
as a nurse at a local hospital. Two other 
co-workers were single parents who 
wanted to leave early to be with their chil- 
dren. Jim, the department's lidermaximo, 
cut of f discussion by responding curtly: "I 
won't be dictated to by 17 people." 

Tandem's practice of giving stock-op- 
tions (the right to buy stock at a dis- 
counted price) to new hires and in lieu of 
bonuses also fits in with their "partici- 
patory" philosophy. Because many em- 
ployees owned stock, the vagaries of the 
stock price was a frequent topic of con- 
versation. In the building where I worked, 
one wall of the coffee room was taken up 
by a large piece of grid paper on which the 
daily changes in the stock price were 
charted. Besides encouraging a sense of 
participation in a common venture, there 
are two other benefits the top brass receive 
from widespread employee stock owner- 

(1) The company cannot be taken over 
as easily by outside investors or a con- 
glomerate in search of a juicy new acquisi- 
tion, thereby more firmly entrenching the 

current management. 

(2) The employees become a major 
source of capital for the firm, making it 
less necessary for the company to go to 
banks for credit. 

Although much of Tandem's stock was 
owned by employees, the power relations 
in production were not affected. For one 
thing, the amount of stock that people 
own is not the same. Factory workers can- 
not afford to buy much stock whereas 
huge blocks of stock are owned by the top 

Mail Wars 

After the top management of Tandem 
announced their wage and hiring freeze in 
November, 1982, I arrived at work the 
next day to find an electronic mail message 
that had been sent to all employees by a 
gutsy technician in one of the company's 
far-flung offices. The message protested 
that the freeze was shameful and unfair. 
This electronic mail system permits im- 
mediate contact between most employees, 
even when separated by thousands of 
miles of geography. 

To use the mail system, an employee 
would need to have access to a video 
display and a "mail ID" — the electronic 
equivalent of a postal box. About three- 
fourths of the firm's 4,000 employees had 
direct access to the mail system, including 
clerical and warehouse workers, technical 
writers, field technicians and systems 

The mail system worked like an elec- 
tronic bulletin board. After typing in the 
word "mail" at a VDT, you could page 
through the various mail messages you 
had received. 

When sending messages to others, you 
could either "post" a "first class" message 
directly to another individual — in which 
case other people would (presumably) not 
see it — or else you could "broadcast" a 
second-class or third-class message to a 
defined group of mail users. 

"Second class" mail was reserved for 
work-related topics. This usually consisted 
of queries about technical questions, such 
as snags in some specific customer applica- 
tion. This was in fact the main use of the 
mail system. 

Down in the Valley 







if There is any reason why this action should not 





"TVlirH r>1oee" moil wmo nmiriAaA oo n .. . . « .... . . _ 

"Third class" mail was provided as a 
kind of employee benefit. Since the mail 
system was needed for people to com- 
municate about technical questions in 
their work, the company didn't mind if, in 
addition, you used the mail to sell your 
1968 Chevy or those spare tickets to the 
Talking Heads concert. The technician's 
protest against the wage freeze, however, 
indicates how employees could use it in 
ways not intended by management. 

When "broadcasting," you would send 
the message to everybody in a defined 
group, such as all employees in Northern 
California or all employees in the com- 
pany's global network. There existed self- 
defined mail groups, such as all IBM PC 
owners. If you wanted to send out a 
message to all co-workers in your depart- 
ment but didn't want management to see 
it, you could define a mail group ap- 
propriately using the exact "mail ID" of 
each co-worker. 

Sometimes people would simply get 
bored and send out jokes. Other times 
jokes and comments would lead to con- 
troversies, as various people added their 
responses. These brouhahas were soon 
dubbed "Mail Wars." Perhaps the biggest 
of the Mail Wars was touched off by an in- 
offensive message sent out by a man who 
belonged to a group called "High Tech 
Gays."* The message advertised the for- 
mation of a gay employees mail users 
group and social club. The organizers did 
not see themselves as "activists." As they 
saw it, they were just organizing a coffee 

The replies ranged from erstwhile 
paricipants, activists, and "straight" sup- 
porters to "faggot" epithets and the 

predictable religiious loonies. Someone in 
the Santa Clara stockroom sent one of the 
more threatening replies: 


14JUL83 12:33 
SUBJECT: A mail group for Gay Tandem 

I hope you can round up all the homo's in 
Tandem, because if you do we will find out 
where one of those meetings is being held and 
pay you gay bates a visit, and beat the shit 
out of every one of you. I bet you take it up 
the butt you little tinkerbell. 

Here is another message of the same ilk, 
sent from the Midwest: 


29JUL83 15:27 
SUBJECT: stay in the closet fag fuck 

Steve — you ignorant slimy piece of fag 
fuck, how dare you show your pathetic sexual 
perversion to the Tandem network. On top of 
this, you have the stupidity to be pround of 
the fact that you stick your little pecker up 
some other sicko faggot's asshole and have 
your perverted orgasm (you probably piss in- 
stead of cum). The next time I'm in Cuper- 
tino Vm going to kick yourfaggy ass across 
the parking lot and personally cut your balls 

Redneck Motha 
USA, apple pie, and heterosexuality 

Later on I talked with Steve Eastman (the 
gay group's coordinator) about these and 
other anti-gay messages he received. He 
doubted that the people who tapped out 

* This group has been in the news recently be- 
cause of their complaint that gays are restricted 
from military-related work by discrimination in 
obtaining security clearances. It's unfortunate 
that access to military work is seen as part of the 
fight for liberation — on a par with women 
wanting to become cops. 


Processed World 

blunt insults in the isolation of their office 
or work space would necessarily respond 
in that way in a face-to- face encounter. 
Because people are atomized when com- 
municating over the mail system, people 
communicate with less of an awareness of 
the other person as someone who is going 
to react to what they say. 

One of Steve Eastman's non-gay co- 
workers happened to see the kind of 
bigoted replies that he was getting: 


Bigots and hate mail at Tandem 

Last week a mail message was sent out sug- 
gesting the formation of a gay employees mail 
group. I was surprised to discover that this 
message engendered a lot of vicious replies. 
What a wonderful innovation: electronic hate 
mail, here at Tandem. 

One of the replies was particularly offen- 
sive: a threat to discover the location of the 
meeting place for gay Tandem employees and 
beat them up. The message was anonymous, 
of course. This is pure bigotry, and a threat 
to anyone with unpopular opinions and 
preference. Obviously, I am talking matters 
of private choice here, the exercise of which is 
not intrinsically harmful to anyone save pos- 
sibly the parties freely involved. 

I have a suggestion for the author of the 
violent reply: form a distribution list for 
bigots and hate mail senders. To further pro- 
tect your cherished anonymity, I suggest you 
wear robes made of old sheets and pointed 
hats. Burning crosses optional. 

— Gary Staas 

Gary's message, since it was broadcast 
to everyone, brought the controversy out 
into the open. The anti-gay prejudice that 
then surfaced was more restrained. For ex- 


19JUL83 17:19 


I agree, Gary, bigotry is one of the darker 
sides of human behavior. But I really think 
that condoning advertisements for a mail- 
group based upon sexual-preference (read: 
practices) sets a very negative precedent. By 
following the logic of the "Tandem gays" 
message it's conceivable that we mail view- 
ers/users may be subjected to ads seeking per- 
sons who wish to form a group into group- 
sex, or into animal-sex, or into child-sex. 
These ads may seem extreme but no more ex- 
treme than ads for Tandemites into gay-sex. 

I feel that respect for the rights of the ma- 
jority and respect for the reputation of Tan- 
dem Computers is equally important to 
minority rights. 

— Peter Quinn 

A member of my department responded 
with the following tongue-in-cheek reply: 


21JUL83 11:38 
TO: D locncal 

SUBJECT: More bigots and others 
Dear Peter: 

Where do you guys get all your ideas for 
different kinky encounters? 

I don 't remember any mention that the 
purpose of the gay mail group was to meet 
partners for sex, but I guess I'm just a little 
naive. I'll bet you just knew that was really 
what it was all about without being told. 

And now mail groups for Tandemites who 
are into orgies, bestiality and child molesting! 
We know where your mind is, Peter. Unfor- 
tunately, the last two parctices are illegal, so 
Tandemites into these things will just have to 
stay in the closet. As for the orgy mail group, 
seems like a good idea to me. Anyway, thanks 
for the suggestions Peter. 
Love, Keith 

In bringing the subject of anti-gay pre- 
judice out into the open, this controversy 
allowed many people, straight and gay, to 
express their solidarity with their gay co- 
workers and directly argue against preju- 

Meanwhile, the company's top brass 
were apparently disturbed by the level of 
controversy being generated on the mail 
system. The Gay Mail War was soon punc- 
tuated by a "first class" pronunciamento 
to all employees from Mr. Big, Jimmy 
Treybig, calling a halt. His message de- 
plored what he termed "unprofessional 
conduct" but studiously avoided sug- 
gesting who was being censured. Soon 
thereafter a new policy on mail usage was 
decreed which, among other things, pro- 
hibited the use of the mail system to pro- 
mote "political, religious or other 
causes." The head bosses were obviously 
disturbed by the prospect of an uncon- 
trolled free speech area that gave anyone 
access to all other employees. 

More recently a new version of the mail 
program was put into place which auto- 
matically displays the sender's full name 
on any message. The purpose is to elim- 

Down in the Valley 


inate the sending of anonymous messages. 
But it's not clear this will work. Clever 
employees have at times "logged on" 
under mail IDs other than their own to 
send out messages. 

Overthrowing the bosses: 
a true story 

A co-worker had been suggesting to me 
that we were being spied upon. The only 
hard evidence he pointed to, however, was 
an incident where A I, my rather weird and 
anti-social supervisor, had stood behind 
him for a long time watching what he was 
typing on his VDT, saying nothing. None- 
theless, I did take the precaution of bury- 
ing anything I didn 't want my supervisors 
to see in the middle of work-related com- 
puter files. I had occasionally spent some 
of my employer's time writing articles on 
political subjects, and I didn't want these 
to be discovered. 

On one occasion the message "Big 
Brother is watching" popped up on my 
screen. "Oh, he's being paranoid again, "I 

Two days later, as I'm tapping away on 
the keys, A I enters my cubicle. ( T want to 
talk with you, " he says. In the privacy of 
the conference room, he shows me a large 
folder, which, he tells me, is a computer 
printout of everything in my files. 
"You've been devious, " he says. He tells 
me he doesn 't care about the political con- 
tent of my writings (he rolls his eyes). He 
just didn 't like the fact that I mixed my 
own stuff in with the company's data. 

He says he has a little program that he 
uses when he "suspects" someone (he 
laughs). Essentially, the program searches 
the directory of all files on the computer 
system and finds only those files that have 
been altered by people in our department 
during the day. It then spits out a list oj 
those files and the times when they were 
last worked on. Late at night, when no one 
else was around, Al would print out the 
contents of all these files to see if what we 
were doing on company time related to 
company work. 

The next day, Friday, co-workers be- 
came more aware of the spying operation 
as bits of evidence began to surface. Some- 
one found copies of personal files in the 

bosses' "volume" of the the disc memory. 
Two of the individuals who had been se- 
lected for particularly close scrutiny were 
people who had complained to the Person- 
nel Department about the arbitrary and 
abusive management in our department. 
A lady whose cubicle is next to mine tells 
me that she always immediately erases 
from disc the letters she writes to her son 
after she prints them out because she 
"doesn 't want Al to see them. " 

The computer operators tell us they had 
become suspicious ofAl's doings. Months 
before, several women in the building had 
received anonymous electronic mail mes- 
sages such as "I love you " etc. — a kind of 
electronic sexual harassment. The opera- 
tors had traced these messages to a time at 
night when only Al could have sent them. 

The supervisors in our department had 
become so preoccupied with keeping tabs 
on people that it began to affect the de- 
partment's production. Camera-ready 
copy cannot be printed out and page flats 
pasted-upfor offset printing until the sup- 
ervisors read the drafts, check the art 
work, etc. Unread and unapproved man- 
uals were piling up. 

The following mail message was soon 
received by most non-management people 
in the department, commenting on our 
bosses' concern with their "authority": 


Processed World 


26APR83 10:35 
"It is interesting to reflect on the defecatory 
habits of the hippopotamus. The male indi- 
cates to other hippopotomi the extent of his 
own territory by defecating all around its peri- 
meter. Outside that ring they can go where 
they please, but if they come inside it he will 
fight them to the death. " 

From Anthony Day's 
Management and Machiavelli 

That afternoon, Wayne, the author of 
the above message, saw Al printing out a 
copy of a personal electronic mail message 
he had sent to a co-worker. Wayne began 
inserting the comment "Fuck you, Al" at 
various points in his files, since he now 
knew Al was going to probe everywhere. 
Knots of people talking could be observed 
most of the day. Little work got done. 

The following Monday was May 2nd, 
1983, the day after 50,000 workers had 
demonstrated in support of Solidarnosc in 
Warsaw. As a member of the Bay Area 
Solidarity Support Campaign, I had been 
distributing "Solidarnosc" buttons, so I 
brought some to work with me. People 
came over to my cubicle on numerous oc- 
casions during the day to get buttons. For 
us, the buttons expressed not only support 
for the Polish workers but also solidarity 
with each other, and it enabled us to ex- 
press this in a way that the bosses couldn 't 
easily oppose. 

Meanwhile, Al was pre-occupied with 
printing out Wayne 's files. A t one point he 
suddenly noticed the "Fuck you, Al" mes- 
sage. He jumped up from the printer and 
walked rapidly over to the cubicle of the 
Production Manager. He grabbed him by 
the shirt, and all of the bosses then se- 
questered themselves in the head 
manager's office (referred to as the 
"Fuehrerbunker" by department rank- 

Later that day the bosses left. We found 
out afterwards that they had decided to 
concoct an accusation of "conspiring to 
undermine management authority. " They 
used Wayne's "Thought for the Day" 
messages, my left-wing political writings 
and the "Solidarnosc" buttons as evi- 
dence. They took this ridiculous story to 
Jimmy Treybig, who referred them to the 

vice-president in charge of Personnel. 

The next week the vice-president and 
the head of our building called a meeting 
with the staff of our department. The VP 
was cool and paternal in his style. We sat in 
silence as he gave a smooth harangue: 
"Political treatises and scurrilous mes- 
sages are an inappropriate use of capital 
resources. " Then he was interrupted by 
the senior member of the department, an 
engineer and self-styled "conservative. " 
"Look, " he said, "you 're just talking 
about symptoms. You 're not getting at the 
cause. The real problem is abusive and ar- 
bitrary management. "He then proceeded 
to cross-examine A I about his invasion of 
people's privacy, maintaining "dossiers" 
to be used against people, etc. One by one, 
other members of the department punc- 
tuated the proceedings with their own in- 

At the end of the meeting, the top brass 
announced that a "partial solution was in 
place" since Jim, the department's head, 
had "resigned" along with another super- 
visor. Al's fate was still up in the air, 
however. As we left the meeting, one of 
my co-workers commented to me: "Vm 
not satisfied with the body count. " 

Al and the Production Manager were 
demoted soon thereafter and privately 
urged to look for work elsewhere. They 
were gone within a couple of months. 

Several days after the meeting, some of 
the computer programs used in manual 
production were sabotaged. It seems that 
the bosses who had been fired had VDTs 
at home and still had access to the com- 
puter over the phone lines. 

A t the end of the meetings with the hon- 
chos, the head of our building muttered 
about the "adversarial relationship " that 
had been created in our department. As if 
capitalism isn 't based on an "adversarial 

While "participatory management" 
may be used by employees to their benefit 
in situations like the above, we should 
keep in mind that this is not simply a 
"gift" from the bosses. The less authori- 
tarian management style exists because 
some companies see it as a more effective 
means of gaining cooperation from the 
workforce in achieving management 

Down in the Valley 


Joe Schwind 


Processed World 

goals. But it has been seen as "more effec- 
tive" only in light of the resistance, both 
passive and active, of workers against 
more overtly authoritarian management 
methods. Participatory management does 
not — and cannot — eliminate the very 
real conflict of interests between workers 
and employers. The fact remains that 
workers don 7 run the plant or control the 
funds. This makes conflict inevitable. 


The direct human solidarity that de- 
velops among people who are thrown to- 
gether in the same workplace is a kind of 
embryonic unionism. This solidarity of 
the immediate work group is played out in 
Silicon Valley in incidents like the one I de- 
scribed above. But in order to have a 
serious affect on what companies do or 
contribute to social change, this practice 
of people being "in union" with each 
other has to develop into an actual move- 
ment, conscious of itself and its purposes, 
and organized on a mass scale, not just 
limited to the personal and informal ties of 
departmental solidarity. 

Unionism of the formal, organized sort 
has only the most feeble existence in the 
valley at this point in history. Shop organi- 
zations do exist in the "dirtiest" end of the 
business, in chip plants like Signetics, Na- 
tional Semiconductor and Fairchild 
Camera and Instrument. The United Elec- 
trical Workers Union (UE) has groups that 

Ms Meg 

by bulbul 

.... D&/MK/A/6 IVAT££ // 

are implanted in those workplaces. These 
groups have no contract with the employer 
or legal recognition but exist through the 
agitation and loyalty of groups of 
workers. Of course, it's not that the UE is 
opposed to contract unionism and the in- 
stitutionalized collective bargaining 
system. It's just that they haven't yet been 
able to impose that sort of deal on the 

Unions with contracts do exist at some 
of the largest plants in Silicon Valley. The 
International Association of Machinists 
and Aerospace Workers (IAM) has con- 
tracts covering workers at Lockheed Space 
and Missile and FMC, the two largest mili- 
tary contractors in the valley. The IAM, as 
is generally true of the existing unions in 
this country, is dominated by paid officials 
who work to avoid conflict that would 
rupture their long-standing collective bar- 
gaining relationship with the employers. 
Instead of fighting the present system, the 
bureaucratic unions basically accept the 
status quo and rarely challenge manage- 
ment power on the shop floor or manage- 
ment's "right" to decide what our skills 
will be used to produce. The union offi- 
cialdom often act as if the union is their 
"business," which it is, since their liveli- 
hood depends upon its organizational sur- 
vival in an industrial and political environ- 
ment that is basically hostile to working 
people. Thus the leaders of such unions 
often talk of the need for "cooperation be- 
tween labor and capital." 

An alternative to this bureaucratic 
unionism would be the development of 
unions without paid officials, organized in 
such a way that their affairs are conducted 
directly by the rank-and-file. Since they 
would be run by the people who must 
work under the conditions prevailing in 
the shops, such organizations would not 
be dominated by officials with a stake in 
"cooperation" with the existing power 

There is a sector of opinion among 
"progressives" that holds that the best in- 
terests of the population would be served 
by cooperation with the high-tech com- 
panies of the Silicon Valley type rather 
than struggle against them. David Talbot, 

Down in the Valley 


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in a piece on the high-tech moguls in 
Mother Jones*, chides "left economics" 
for not "grappling with the central prob- 
lem of how to stimulate economic 
growth," Talbot says the labor movement 
should "be joining forces with the high- 
growth business sector to make sure that 
the [government] planning process does 
not stifle the creative drive of Silicon Val- 
ley-type entrepreneurs." Why? Because 
"it is they, after all, who are giving the 
economy whatever vitality it has, they who 
are creating the new jobs." This "neo-lib- 
eral" line is just the old trickle-down ideo- 
logy in Yuppie garments. Within capi- 
talism, "growth" means profits. Thus, 
Talbot is essentially saying that the way for 
workers to benefit is by helping the 
employers make more profit. 

But profits in Silicon Valley are made by 
ignoring workers' health risks and pollut- 
ing the environment. And competition 
drives companies to use their profits for 
automation, to cut their payrolls and to 
speed-up the remaining jobs. 

David Talbot thinks that an alliance 
with the high tech moguls is needed to 
bolster "America's competitiveness" in 
the world market. But the companies' 
search for "competitiveness" may not 
benefit their workers. "Competitiveness" 
was the motive when Atari and Qume (a 
subsidiary of ITT) closed down their man- 
ufacturing operations in Silicon Valley, 
putting hundr eds of workers in the unem- 

* "Fast Times for High-Tech," Mother Jones, 
December, 1983. 

ployment lines. They found it more profit- 
able to shift operations to Taiwan. Capital 
today is international. It will set down 
wherever the most profit can be made. It 
has no loyalty to workers because they are 
of a particular nationality. 

Instead of supporting "our" bosses, it 
makes more sense for electronics workers 
in the U.S. to develop contacts and soli- 
darity with high tech workers in Taiwan, 
Malaysia, Japan and Germany and other 
sites in the global factory. 

Instead of "cooperation between labor 
and capital," what electronics workers 
need is more militant struggle against the 
bosses, to protect their health, to fight 
growing unemployment through a shorter 
workweek, and to fight for a different so- 
ciety, where we won't be forced by wage- 
labor to work for the generals' death 
machine or the vultures at BofA and Citi- 

The development of revolutionary, self- 
managed unionism is needed not only be- 
cause a more militant solidarity is neces- 
sary to gain whatever we can within the 
present social system, but also to pose the 
possibility of electronics workers taking 
over the industry and putting its techno- 
logical prowess to uses that will be more 
beneficial to human beings. 

Note: The above article is excerpted from 
a longer version which is appearing in the 
current issue of ideas & action, available 
from P. O. Box 40400, San Francisco, CA 


The quality, and quantity, of books on 
the social impacts of computing has 
improved radically in the last year or so. 
The books reviewed here are all 
notable, and some of them are really 


— A Social History of Industrial 

(David F. Noble; New York, 1984) 

A must-read for anyone sick of the old 
pro-tech, anti-tech pseudo-debate. On 
the surface, Forces of Production 
convincingly demonstrates that the 
technology of industrial automation 
didn't develop of its own accord, but 
was chosen and designed by managerial 
and technical elites to serve their own 
class interests. But at a deeper level 
there's even more here: a tightly 
reasoned and sharply drawn pitch for 
opposition and refusal as the core 
response to the new technology. 

Noble is a passionate critic of 
ideologies of techno-determinism and 
progress. Techno-determinism pacifies 
the population by encouraging a 
quasi-religious awe in the face of scien- 
tific expertise and technological "in- 
evitability." "Progress" is, if anything, 

worse — it tells us not only to sit down 
and shut up, but to enjoy it. "Dreams of 
progress" Noble points out, are often 
used as clubs of revolt. 

If your tendency is anti-tech, you'll 
find herein a perspective far superior to 
typical "back to the stone age" pes- 
simism which holds that machine-based 
societies are necessarily unfree. Rather, 
Noble's opposition to the new technol- 
ogy is based on a well-schooled analysis 
of science and technology as weapons of 
capitalism and management. Noble 
looks beyond the ideology of automation 
to its reality: as a means of enforcing 
powerlessness with the threat of un- 
employment, as a source of fragmenta- 
tion and isolation in society. He chal- 
lenges any views of science and tech- 
nology that encourage passivity. 

Despite the merits of his arguments, I 
believe the unequivocal opposition to 
modern technology is impractical. We 
need some of these new machines and 
most people know it. The problems of 
overpopulation and devastated eco-sys- 
tems leave little room for bucolic luxury 
in the society we are inheriting. Without 
powerful tools, we have no future. 

If you, like I, believe that opposition 
to capitalist technology must grow to 
encompass the undiscovered potential 

By ting Into Books 


of science without domination, you'll 
find in Forces of Production strong 
arguments to whet your opinion — 
arguments you'd do well to understand. 

electronics. Are we to assume that the 
"second industrial revolution" is only 
one issue among many? The author may 
not think so, but you'd never know it 
from his book. 


—A Skeptic's View of Our High-Tech 

(Ian Reinecke; Penguin, 1984) 

Written by an Australian and pub- 
lished by the British, Electronic Illu- 
sions is a product of the "anti- microchip 
movement" which brought the issue of 
microelectronics onto the agenda of the 
traditional left. The result is a pro- 
totypical leftish introduction to the 
technology, successfully simple but 
sometimes simplistic. 

Don't get me wrong. America too has 
seen its share of cliched introductions to 
high tech. And I'll take Electronic Illu- 
sions to junk like Megatrends or The 
Techno-Peasant's Survival Manual 

The book is pretty strong on the real 
meaning of the "information age," and 
it presents the reader with useful intro- 
ductions to some common sorts of com- 
puter assisted ideology. Short and 
sweet, it takes only about 250 pages to 
tell its tale. Without footnotes. 

On the other hand, Electronic Illu- 
sions is hobbled by its play for mass 
appeal. No mention whatsoever is made 
of the microelectronic revolution in 
weapons systems and military doctrine, 
or to the impact of the new automation 
on the international division of labor. 
These are not small oversights. 

And Electronic Illusions sticks to a 
shallow and outdated interpretation of 
the work related impacts of com- 
puterization. Everything is squeezed 
into the old bottles of "employment" 
and "unemployment." Even the use of 
computers to give management more 
control over workers is barely men- 
tioned. There is no search for new forms 
of struggle appropriate to the new 
conditions, no hint of a consideration of 
the overall implications of micro- 


— A Report to the Club of Rome 
(Friedrichs and Schaff, Editors; 
Mentor, New York, 1983) 

Remember the Club of Rome? Long 
ago, at the height of the ecological con- 
flagration, they fanned the flames with 
The Limits to Growth. Now they've 
published a long, detailed, sometimes 
tedious, but ultimately substantial in- 
troduction to the impact of micro- 
electronics. An awareness of the chang- 
ing international economy pervades the 
book, and the arms race gets serious, if 
uninspired, consideration. 

Note one essay in particular. Despite 
its unpromising title, "Information 
Technology and Society," it is incisively 
pessimistic about the impacts of "auto- 
matic data processing" on human free- 
dom. The author, Klaus Lenk, warns his 
readers about the implications of 
restructuring of the "very essence of 
social cohesion — communications," 
and on the structure of social power. 
Lenk's fear is that "informatization" 
and "bureaucratization" will meld to- 
gether to give institutions ever more 
power over individuals. It's an old 


Processed World 

argument, well known since Orwell's 
"telescreen," but Lenk's version is 
more subtle, more modern, and more 


— A Chilling Account of the Com- 
puter's Threat to Society 

(David Burnham; Vintage, New 
York, 1984) 

Complete with an introduction by 
Walter Cronkite, Computer State is dis- 
tinguished by a fact-laden exploration of 
its theme. Even right-wing libertarians 
can, and do, share the nightmare of a 
future in which "the computer" (not 
any identifiable social forces, thank you) 
leads to a progressive hardening of the 
social machine, and eventually to a 
techno-totalitarian state-society. 

Topics include surveillance (quite a 
lot is going on) and databases which are 
shown to be central to the organization 
of the modern capitalist economy, and 
which, through their progressive inter- 
connection, constitute one of the major 
"autonomous" thrusts towards the 
computer state. And there's some good 
journalism about our own Thought 
Police, the boys at the National Security 


— An American Quest for Artificial 

(Frank Rose; Harper and Row, New 
York, 1984) 

A new journalism has arrived in 
Silicon Valley. The Soul of a New 
Machine set the standard four years 
ago. It was a story about a squad of 
child-engineers just out of grad school 
who were mercilessly exploited by their 
ex-folk-singer-project leader at Data 


"Heart" takes us into the swirl of the 
UC Berkeley artificial Intelligence (AI) 
Labs, where a dedicated cadre of grad- 

uate students and their iconoclastic 
mentor labor at the quixotic task of 
giving a DEC VAX 11-780 common 
sense. It's worth reading because it's 
both amusing and a good summary of 
the debates about the nature and 
potential of machine "intelligence." 

Some of the important questions do 
manage to sneak into the commentary, 
like the "strategic computing" program 
which the Defense Advanced Research 
Projects Agency (DARPA) is feeding to 
the tune of megabucks. The Army 
wants killer robots, the Air Force an 
"intelligent pilot's associate," and the 
Navy "intelligent battle management 
systems?" What fun! 


— Computers and the Human Spirit 
(Sherry Turkle; Simon and 
Schuster, New York, 1984) 

Sherry Turkle 's first book was about 
psychoanalysis and politics in France, 
this one focuses on "computers and the 
human spirit." Yet she claims a large 
similarity for the two books; her interest 
is in the way in which powerful ideas 
propagate through society and trans- 
form the "popular imagination." 

The Second Self is a poor book about 
an interesting subject — human 
psychology and computers. It includes 
the standard fare of today's computer 
literature: hackers, the meaning of 
"personal" computers, the artificial in- 
telligentsia. The bulk of the book, and 
the most interesting part of it, is about 
children and computers. Especially 
striking is the examination of how 
children develop from a "metaphysi- 
cal" stage in which they wonder if their 
computer toys are alive, to a stage of 
"mastery," in which "they don't want 
to philosophize, they want to win." 

The most tantalizing chapter title, 
"thinking of yourself as a machine," 
leads to a shallow and disappointing 
agglomeration of interview fragments 
and hedged conclusions. The section on 
AI is far inferior to Into The Heart of the 

By ting Into Books 


The Second Self considers computers 
not as commodities or as ideological 
weapons, but rather as "evocative ob- 
jects," projective screens that reveal 
the condition of our collective spirit. It's 
about the "subjective computer," and 
anyone interested in the subject should 
read it for the glimmers it contains. But 
this is psychology in its classic mode, 
shorn of social mediation and left to 
fend for itself. And the depth that might 
justify such narrow scope is nowhere to 
be seen. 

Why then is The Second Self notable? 
Because its basic premise will certainly 
prove to be true: these "thinking" 
machines" are more than the latest 
weapons in the hands of the managers. 
They will affect our souls in ways only 
now becoming visible. 

And to round out the selection, here 's a 
short list of older books still worthy of 

Lewis Mumford; Harbinger, 1934. 

PLAYER PIANO, Kurt Vonnegut; 
Dell, 1952 

REASON, Joe Weisenbaum; Freeman, 


Langdon Winner; MIT Press, 1977 

GERS, Philip Kraft; Springer- Verlag, 

1977. * 

Hubert Dreyfus; Harper Colophon, 

Herbert Schiller; Ablex, 1981. 

Mosco; Ablex, 1982. 

4 4- 4- 4- 4- Q'-q- 4 4 

58tt *Kas&a 

he's kept 
resolutions to . . . 

• Steal time on the 
job. I 

• Sabotage expen- 
sive office 

• Ridicule the 
authority of his 

• Keep his mind 
free from all 
obsessions with 
meaningless work. 

• Subscribe to 
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